Tony welcomes Camila Smith, LCSW, to the Virtual Couch. Camila is a psychotherapist, educator, and the Chief Clinical Officer of Bekome (http://joinbekome.co). Camila specializes in gut health, with an advanced doctoral focus in mental health and clinical nutrition. Tony and Camila talk about the current state of the mental health system as practitioners which often view mental health as solely in the brain. They discuss a more integrated view of mental wellness, including Camila’s passion for taking a more holistic view, including not only therapy and exercise but, more importantly, nutrition and understanding the role that your gut health plays in mental well-being, especially concerning anxiety.
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Virtual Couch- Camila Smith Bekome Transcript
Tony: So, Camila Smith, welcome to the Virtual Couch.
Camila: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.
Tony: Okay. I am too and I'm going to be just so honest. I am. So I just want to sit back and listen, and I didn't prepare anything. I'm going into this blind because, you know, I talk often about we know what we know, so that means that we don't know what we don't know. And I want to know so much about gut health. I know that's like the future of mental health, I feel like I've had kind of tummy troubles my whole life, so I'm, I want you to teach me everything. And then when I looked up your background, I have to be honest, the things I think are so fascinating are I saw that you are also an equine and art therapy person. And those are absolutely two areas I know nothing about either. So, you know, I know you are bringing to me, I just wanna sit back and hear all the things that I don't know that I don't even. So is that too much pressure? Okay. So jump in wherever you want. I'd love to know a little bit about you, your background, and then what we're talking about today.
Camila: Sure. No problem. So I guess I'll start with a little bit of just who I am as a person. And where I'm at. So I’m a therapist and also a hypnotherapist, yoga teacher, art and equine, clinical officer, adjunct professor. kind of all over. So I think if I had to sum it, I'm just a lover of learning. You know, I, and so going back to, I guess the beginning with being a therapist. So after about five years of being in the field and working with clients, I became increasingly more uncomfortable with the approach and not to say that there isn't, I still practice as a therapist and I think of course, when we talk about, you know, traditional treatment options of kind of thinking about our thoughts and how we might, our thoughts affect us, but I started to become, I had a lot of questions particularly because of my own experiences with anxiety, and it just didn't feel good. You know, to give the narrative of kind of like, well, if we change our thoughts, which we can, it's gonna change, especially when I know what anxiety feels like in my body. Right? Like, yeah. I, I can't seem to, will my way out of my heart racing. Right? Like once it’s happening, I can't seem to change my stomach hurting or me having a headache just based on thought once it's already occurred, right? So I started to have a lot more questions, and at that time I worked at a clinic and we would get a lot of referrals from primary care, so from doctors and from the hospital.
So there was a lot of overlap between kind of medical and then mental health, but there was also a lot of separation. Right? So it was like, there was overlap in terms of, referring back and forth, but there wasn't, you know, it's like there was just a huge disparity between the two. So I decided to go back to school and I got my doctorate in health sciences with a clinical nutrition concentration. And what I learned just blew my mind, right? So I started not really knowing what to expect. I just wanted to learn more about the human body and how this all really affects our mental health. And some of the things that I, I think, that were most impactful to me was learning about, for example, the second brain, the HPA access, kind of all the physiology that goes into anxiety disorders. So as I'm going through the program, you know, I had to work on a dissertation, so I decided to focus on anxiety. So my research was on the use of nutraceuticals, so natural remedies for anxiety disorders, and I compared all of the research to traditional treatments. So I looked at, you know, how does passion flour hold up against an SSRI or benzodiazepine? So, I looked at kind of the ones that we primarily, amino acids, different herbs and then compared them. And I'm a big nerd, so to me it was great. I was learning so much. I'm like, this is awesome. And last year, you know, I'm sitting working on my dissertation and I have this hundred page document with tons of studies and I've spent years on it and I was like, okay, well what am I gonna do with this? You know, I have what I feel is good information to give out, but how do, what's the next part to this?
So I am huge into kind of manifestation or creating our future. And I put on my vision board that I was going to somehow formulate this into a supplement, no idea how, it was you know, at that point just a thought and fast forward to end of last year, I get a call actually ties into the equine, from someone that I knew, we were both on the board members of a company for equine and art therapy. So she calls me and she says, and it's been a couple years since we spoke, because of the pandemic, we had to shut down a lot of the programs, the in-person programs. And she says, hey, I'm working on a project, thinking about starting this company with a co-founder and I don't know, you just came to mind. I'm like, okay, I'm all ears. And you know, she's like, we're thinking about a supplement for anxiety, all natural, like, I got it. So at that point, I had all my research so we got together and since then, you know, we, so I formulated, I grabbed pretty much my things for my research and we formulated it into an actual supplement, which we tested. So right now I'm in a role of, and it's been amazing, right? So kind of still practicing as a therapist and then have transitioned into the startup world. So mental wellness startup, and it's been an incredible journey. So this is kind of where I'm at now, and so much of the focus going into this startup, for me, was how do I take everything that I've been learning, right? The things that I've learned, the way our brain works, but also our body, you know? Our gut health. How does this all line up? And how do we make this, you know, what can I provide? What can we come together? And a big piece of that is not only just the supplements, but education, right?
Tony: Well, and Camilla, I love this because I didn't know, I mean, I really did think we were, I purposely didn't do too much research about what we were going to talk about. So and maybe even just to kind of for my own listeners. So yeah, I assume we were going to be talking about just some probiotics or some gut health and how that affects the future around depression, anxiety. So, okay. So now going on my train of thought. It's funny because I was always going to be the non-medication therapist when I started, but then I started having people that really benefited from some medication, but meanwhile, I'm a bit of a supplement junkie. I'm an ultra marathon runner, and I've been sponsored by a couple of different companies and I realize at points they could send me anything. And if it's in a supplement form, I'm taking it and I'm aware of that.
So then I jump into the role as a therapist and I used to be a cognitive behavioral therapist, just change your thoughts, but then I wouldn't run into, okay but then there's a lot of time where that not only doesn't help, but it makes people feel worse because then they can't just decide to be happy. Right? So then I start doing all the trauma work with Body Keeps the Score and you've got that visceral gut reaction and so even as I shift to acceptance and commitment therapy, which I love, which is like, oh, of course we have thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and then, you know, but am I fusing or hooking to this story that, you know, I'm not enough or whatever. But then it's funny that you're saying this because people would sometimes say, okay, but I literally can't keep anything in my stomach and I can't go do this thing because I have diarrhea or that sort of thing. And I would, I would make the, I do too much humor, but I would say, okay yeah, I guess we can't quite say, oh, I'm fusing to the story of I'm going to soil my pants. Like that one's real, you know, that one's legitimate. That's the real one, right?
Then I start looking at anxiety more, and yeah, when somebody's in that fight or flight mode, and I, on one of my podcasts I talked about amygdala hijack, and you know, when you're in that mode, there’s not a lot you can do at that point. Yeah. And so it has to be all that stuff leading up to, so, all right. I like that we're going in a completely different direction than I thought. And then my other thought I just have to throw out there is I do find myself, I don’t know if you remember in grad school where it was like you would get marks off if you didn't first ask the role play client of, did you get a medical evaluation? You know? And then in my own practice, I mean, we can go sometimes, many sessions where all of a sudden I'm like hey, have you had blood panel work done or do you really understand what's going on with your body? So, all right, so there's my big old dump, so now I'm excited. So now go where you want to go.
Camila: You know, to your point, to the beginning. So in the formulation we do have a probiotic that we added into there. And, but you know, aside from that, I think where I'm at now, it has been kind of a buildup of just a lot of the, you know, information that I've learned but some of the things that to me was just mind blowing was having gone through grad school and, you know, training CBT, and a lot of different trainings that we never talked about gut health or we never talked about the ENS system, right? So we have our brain, but then we have, yeah.
Tony: Yeah, tell me about this.
Camila: So the second brain, which I love this stuff. All right, so we have a, what's considered a second brain, but it really is believed to have been the first brain, meaning that it was developed kind of, first it was say our brain has continued to develop, so the second brain lives in our stomach and it works off of a whole separate central nervous system. And it's called the enteric nervous system. It's an ENS system. What's really interesting is the ENS system, it's the system that starts from our, well, it starts from our esophagus and it works all the way down to our, kind of like our pelvic area. So it runs all the way through, it actually runs through like our throat, our front torso down and it sends information up and down and it connects to the base of our brain. So the ENS system can actually work independent. So meaning it doesn't necessarily need, if it was connected, if it had like a source of power, it could work completely on its own, which no other organ in the body can do that. It needs the central nervous system. So this could function completely independent. It has trillions of cells and it essentially, so it's in our gut. So when we talk about like gut feelings, right? A lot of times we say I don't feel good about that. Right? I always kind of talk to my clients and I say you know, feelings, where are they?
We feel them in our gut, right? I've never felt a feeling in my brain like I've never actually felt something and went, oh my God, I feel that right here. Right? Like, you feel it in our heart, you feel it in your gut. Sometimes it travels all the way down. You might feel it in your hands or your hands are tingly or your feet, so the ENS system is this whole separate, and it's in charge of helping us, well digest food, but it's also a processing center, just like the brain. So it takes information, you know, let's say something scary happens, and it takes all of that, it processes and then it sends signals, right?
So when we think about mental health, for example, serotonin, right? Which I would say is probably one of the better known neurotransmitters. So it's our food, mood, appetite, sleep chemical. So we tend to treat that through medications and think about that as our, in our brain, right? But serotonin, 95% is actually made in our stomach, only 5% is in our brain, which is very interesting. And that 95% that's in our stomach gets deposited into our blood platelets and it moves around our bodies. So our gut, you know, kind of takes information, it produces 95% of the chemical in charge of our mood. It uses it into our blood cells, essentially, and then sends it to the rest of our body. So only 5% is actually produced in our brain. Only 5% of that is like a brain chemical that then gets dispersed. Right? So when we talk about kind of the brain gut connection, there's a direct connection is we have our brain, right? And then we have our gut and they're in a straight, you know, it's kind of like a highway. And in between that we have the vagus nerve that goes and it sends signals up and down and as I learned about this, it felt even more difficult to separate the two, right? Because they are, they work together, they're connected.
And you know, one system sends info to the other. And then to think about our main mood, you know, let's say chemical, being produced in our gut, you know, made me kind of think about like, so this is why it's so important, right? For us to really address gut health. There's also been a lot of kind of more recent studies that are finding that some of the bacteria in our gut, they specifically found some for, I wanna say individuals with dementia, they found a bacteria that usually lives in the gut. They found it in the brain, and in the kind of the dental area of patients with dementia, which then suggests that bacteria from our gut travels all the way up into our brain and it can kind of colonize there, right? And start to cause some of that inflammation. And so there's this little highway that, you know, all these bacteria kind of goes up.
Tony: Well, it's funny, Camila, we're hitting on some pretty funny things that I had no idea that we would talk about. The dementia is the reason why I ultra run or because I take the supplements or, I don't want to, it's funny, I don't want to have that, you know, but I'm also aware, I'm also a fan of the expectation effect. And so I don't want to also continually ruminate about it. So I try to bring awareness to that. But I've read a few things to talk about that plaque in the brain and then even the, from flossing, I mean, so that's funny. I didn't put all those together that are looked at as some of those signs or causes of dementia. So I didn't even think that it may originate in the gut.
Camila: Yeah. There were like more recent studies, right? So it's a theoretical, I mean, at this point we know that the bacteria went from our gut to our brain and our mouth, right? So we're assuming that it traveled that way. But there is a lot of interesting research that's coming out here. And you know, another thing that I also find really fascinating to kind of think about how food and things, or just in general toxins, affect our mood, is so there's been, you know, leaky gut, right? We know that our stomach has this lining. However, our brain also has a lining and it's called the BBB right? The blood-brain barrier. Right. So the BBB is supposed to protect our brain. It's a little membrane that kind of expands, so it opens and closes, and it lets certain molecules into our brain, right? So transmitters and out, and it protects it. However, inflammation can actually start to kind of loosen those little entryways. So then we start to get toxins into our brain, our actual organ, that are not supposed to be there. So then our, kind of just like leaky gut, we essentially, if we wanna follow that terminology, we could experience leaky brain.
Tony: Okay. This is where I've heard this concept of when things cross the blood-brain barrier. Is that what that is?
Camila: That is exactly right. Yes. So as we start to get inflammation, you know, things that irritate this lining. The function, so it's supposed to, it's called tight junctions, right? They're supposed to be kind of like, open up just enough to only let certain molecules in. But as we start to kind of compromise that lining, our body starts to let a lot of other things in. Right? And that's where we potentially are thinking about certain bacteria entering our brain toxins. And we start to experience some of those cognitive things, when we think about our mental capacities, right? So much of that can be affected by the things that are crossing into our brain. And this is where everything that goes into our body affects our brain. So it's not just our thoughts, but actual, whether it's bacteria, chemicals, toxins, food dyes, right? There's so many things that irritate, like for example, for ADHD, there's a lot of research out there that shows that a specific dye, it's a red dye. I don't remember the exact number. But there's a dye that has, you know, some correlation with ADHD because it's believed to cause some damage to the lining.
Tony: Now I feel like you've been secretly stalking me because I talk often about my ADHD diagnosis in adulthood, and now I'm thinking, man, did I just guzzle this red dye as a kid? I mean, is that, you know, I mean this, it makes sense though if it's crossing this blood brain barrier. When you mentioned the cognitive decline that could happen because of the toxins entering the brain. Fascinating.
Camila: And then, even when we think about things kind of crossing or not, this is where nutrition is so important, right? So for example, let me kind of try to make this as less geeky as possible. Serotonin is synthesized from an amino acid called tryptophan, right? So our body cannot make tryptophan. We can only get it from outside sources. So tryptophan is found in chicken, turkey, dairy. The best example I can give is Thanksgiving. And I'll explain why Thanksgiving,
Tony: Well, it's funny. This is the one, when you said that, I thought, wait, is this the one with the turkey, and then you end up falling asleep while you watch football after. Okay. Tell me more.
Camila: Tryptophan turns into serotonin, then serotonin turns into melatonin. So that's how it goes. I just ate a lot of tryptophan. I had a lot of turkey, cheese, and you know, pies. And then I'm feeling really good, serotonin, right? Like my mood is oh, I feel great. And then that mood chemical turns into melatonin. So then we crash, right? and you know, yeah. So that's the progression of it, right? So tryptophan turns into serotonin melatonin, but the only way that tryptophan can cross the blood brain barrier is by glucose. So that's the transporter. So it needs glucose to cross. And glucose. So sugar, right? If our glucose levels are not balanced, then it's gonna compromise our bodies ability to transport. So my diet, let's say, has my glucose levels up and down. And, you know, it's gonna impact how my body's able to digest all of those amino acids into my mood, you know, transmitter. So we think about, when we think about like the connection between mood and food. Well, our main mood chemical comes from food.
So if we don't eat tryptophan, we will not have enough serotonin. Our body needs tryptophan. Right? So when we talk about how, and we, I think we all know this. I mean, I definitely get very happy with food, right? Like certain foods automatically feel good, right? It's like an instant release into our mood. So it's, this is where that connection, so the connection would be, you know, some foods like tryptophan, directly impact our brain chemicals. And then in the middle is our glucose. So then we need to make sure that we're eating food or that our body is balanced throughout the day so that we can actually digest properly. And so this is where it all, you know, kind of comes together and, I felt for me, at least for a while when I was, that the cognitive approach focus very singular without thinking about, you know, how glucose, tryptophan, all of our dopamine, how all this impacts our body. And the reality is I'm also ADHD. I was, as much as I wanted to, change certain things, and I tried. It just was not happening. And once I got the appropriate treatment for it, everything changed, you know, for me, so it's, yeah, it's a very interesting place to be in, like once you start to piece them all together and it's like, wow.
Tony: Well, because then I can only imagine then even when you have the data, we still have all these deeply rooted neuro pathways and we still, you know, so then if we don't continue to be perfect with now diets or supplements, we can beat ourselves up and think what's wrong with me? And so we, but I love what you're saying. I'm not great with analogies, but one that popped into my head was, it's almost like, maintenance on a car throughout a trip instead of, versus maybe what we do as therapists is, okay, you're here and your car is all beat the crap, but now, tell you what to do with the car, and we probably could have taken care of it along the way.
Camila: Exactly, right. That's exactly how I, yeah, because it's almost like in some ways, yeah. It's, let's learn how to cope with, you know, what's going on, right? Let's learn how to feel better, have a perspective that doesn't harm you more, right? So we work on how to change the narrative around our current circumstances. Maybe our past ones. However, that doesn't necessarily direct, it does have some impact, right? Some, yeah, it definitely does. However, if they're, you know, that's not gonna change a lot of other factors, right? Yeah. Our food, so it's, I do think we need all of it, right? Yes. I think it's a multi-prong approach. Our thoughts definitely impact, you know, our body. So I don't think I wanna discredit that completely.
Tony: Yeah. And I don't hear that in you too, but I love what you're saying. It's almost like, okay, with an acceptance of we can only work with what we can work with right now. Now what can we also start to add to maybe help with that work? And that would be through I mean, certain supplements and, I wanna make the joke that, okay, so I guess we do need to eat better. Is that what we're, all right. Maybe I’ll listen because you sound like you know what you're talking about. So then where do you go next with that? And now, because I know you are involved with the company, that's where I found your information and the supplements. Do you feel like if somebody was gonna start somewhere, and so would it be adding a couple of like, how do you decide or know what is best for you from food, supplements to all those sorts of things?
Camila: So this is where I think having a team of trusted providers is so important. There are certain, for example, nutritional deficiencies that are important to know because it can mirror mental health. We know for example that there's a deficiency in B vitamins, is almost 100% mirrors the same as neuropsychiatric disorders. So it just, someone that has a deficiency in B vitamins can have the same exact symptoms as an individual with let's say depression, anxiety, right? So I always, you know, kind of recommend, let's cover all of our bases, right? So making sure that we're getting our lab work to see how our body is doing, right? And then kind of, you know, I think taking inventory of, we all have different schedules. We have different lives, sometimes it's thinking about taking an honest look, you know? And I think that our body is designed to know in some regard what it needs. We might find ourselves like, I'm thirsty, or I want something sweet, or I want something salty. I'm really hungry. So starting to kind of tune into what messages are our body giving us, you know, and honestly, I think it's tricky to say, so like where do we start?
I guess my first step would, taking inventory without judgment, right? Where am I at? You know, how do I feel about hydration? Do I feel as though I'm, you know, hydrated properly? Does my body feel good? Kind of listening, okay. Yes, it is. How am I doing with fruits and veggies? Do I feel like I'm having, you know, a good amount, good serving? Yes or no? Okay. How am I feeling about exercise? So, kind of, what is it, the six doctors? Of course, I'm only gonna remember like three. It's water, sun, air, exercise, rest, and there's one more.
Tony: Five outta six is good. I mean, and I like what you're saying too. Maybe if we put our therapist hats on too. I mean, and it's okay. Non-judgmental, accountable, what are we pretending not to know? Because I know I get plenty of clients that will say, I barely eat. I put on all this weight. And then if we even can just say, man, I hear you. And what would it look like to even just track things for a few days? Non-judgmental, and people find out, oh, I don't drink much water. I'm not really eating much fruit. I do binge more on things than I thought. You know, that sort of thing. Yes. I like what we were saying.
Camila: It’s kind of like a mood diary, right? The mood diary, except maybe it's more like a lifestyle, how often am I drinking water? What's it, just looking at, what does my average day look like? And based on recommendations, you know, kind of standard recommendations that we have about nutrition, hydration, exercise, you know, where do I fall with that? Then seeking the appropriate support. So if I'm feeling like I could use more exercise. Then maybe that's where I focus and I might get an accountability buddy or get a trainer if I need motivation or if I'm feeling like food is the area. And I think that's where therapy can be such a powerful tool to have that person to help kind of be that guide. Let's, you know, make sure that we're accessing all of these individual supports. And I also do think as a therapist, and that's where for us to have that awareness of how important every area is. And that we all need to work together to achieve, you know, kind of optimal health.
Tony: I like that. Alright, so that makes a lot of sense. So first, just kind of being honest with yourself and tracking some things and see where you're maybe deficient. And then from there then, I mean honestly let's do, I'm absolutely fine with, let's plug because I'm on your website too, now that I really see where we're going. There is a thing that says get my personalized plan. What level of detail does that go into?
Camila: Yeah so we have, Bekome is the company that we founded. And currently we have a base pack. So yeah, it's a little pack and it has all the supplements. You take it every day. However, we do offer a personalized option, which means that I work one-on-one with people and we then give a recommendation for supplements completely based on their symptoms. Right? So we're looking at, you know, we have different screening options, so let's say some individuals with anxiety. So our primary focus is anxiety. Some individuals have anxiety and trouble sleeping. Some people have anxiety and sleep well, right? So for someone with anxiety and trouble sleeping, we might look at supplements that kind of promote sleep and relaxation at night. Someone that has anxiety and headaches, for example, let's say lemon balm, is a really, really great supplement for headaches, stomach aches, and anxiety. So if somebody says hey I wake up with this headache and then my stomach hurts, and then my heart's racing. You know, we might wanna add that in. So our base pack, for example, right now, does not include lemon balm, but then we would wanna add that, right? So the personalized plan is a consultation where, I kind of, I talk to people and see where we think they might land if we think that the base would be, you know, best for them. And it also comes along with recommendations for certain foods. So that's where I work one-on-one with people to screen and see how you are doing and there's certain assessment tools. How are you doing with food? How are you doing with this? And then seeing where we can start to plug in some changes to boost some of those nutrients that are needed for our mood.
Tony: And then, do you feel like it's one of those where it does just like anything does take time? Do you find that people all of a sudden say, okay, I want this to make me feel better right away?
Camila: Yeah, I mean I think that I would say a majority of health conscious, you know, individuals, we probably have tried many different things, right? It's like I've already tried that. I've already tried that. Just tell me this is gonna work. Right? Yeah. So there's this excitement for things to work because we've tried so many other things. When we ran the pilot study, we found that 91% of our trial participants reported pretty significant changes and their symptoms within one week which was really exciting data. So, you know, 91% felt a difference within one week when I formulated the supplements, I looked at both short-term and, you know, kind of long-term effects. And I was thinking about how, with anxiety, we have SSRIs and we have benzos, right? In Benzos it's more like in the, your Xanax, right in the moment. I need something. My heart's racing. I need to, right. And then we have, let's say our SSRIs that work long-term. Which is why we need to be on them for at least two to three weeks to feel a difference. So when I was formulating, I brought in specific ingredients that would have that effect.
So, for example, the supplement blend includes Passionflower and theanine. So those are in the moment, you know? They provide that like daily relief. So when we take it, that theanine is gonna help us to focus, give us energy, it's gonna relax our body. Then we have, for example, magnesium glycine and B6 that also have that effect, but they have more of a cumulative or probiotics, right? We don't take a probiotic one day and feel instantly better. We might actually not feel so good at the beginning. Your tummy might feel a little off while your body's balancing out. So the supplements they are, people do actually find a majority of people, I take them, do find relief immediately and then cumulative, right? So they feel good and then they start to kind of feel and sustain that progress. Because I wanted something that's not just right now, right. And then it's not really gonna help us in the long term or it's gonna have some negative effects.
Tony: No, I love that. I mean, so combine that, maybe even with some expectation effect or I'll even lean into a little placebo effect. I don't even care. As long as it's gonna head somebody down that right path. Well, that's exciting. So where do people go? And I can put links in the show notes.
Camila: So the website is, www.joinbekome.co And, you know, one thing that I wanna say, anybody that just has questions, yes. We do have a complimentary 15 minute conversation with me. Okay. So anyone that just wants to say, hey, will this work for me? I'm taking this medication, or I've already taken this, I'm not sure, I do wanna say it, it can be taken with most medications, SSRI. Okay. But if anyone, so that’s completely, just go on the website and it says, book my consultation, and, you know, it just connects us. It goes straight to my schedule and also we do have, so for me, this is such an area of passion, it's my baby kind of took all my research, put it together, and it's something that I believe in really strongly. So we do have a 30 day money back guarantee. So if somebody tries it and it just doesn't work right within those 30 days, there's a 15 minute, and then there's also the 30 minute consultation where we can hop on the phone and work together and see what else we can add. Whether it's nutrition or just kind of emotional support, however, if it doesn't work, that's okay. You know, our bodies are different. We all respond differently. So there are, you know, I'm here to support as best as I can. And yeah, I love it.
Tony: I love it. This was amazing and I enjoyed this interview a lot. I feel like I've learned a lot. So thank you so much for coming on that, and maybe we can have you down the road to talk about how things are going the more that you find, what else you find.
Camila: Thank you. I do just wanna add, we're happy to offer a 30% off discount to any of your listeners. Perfect. So you go to the website and just type in Tony30, it will go ahead and populate.
Tony: I love it. I will share that all over the place then. Thank you so much for joining me today.