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July 6, 2020

Dr. Jodie Skillicorn – Healing depression without medication

A large percentage of people are on various drugs to treat depression and anxiety. With her book, Healing Depression without Medication, Dr. Jodie Skillicorn gives us ways to avoid those drugs.

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[00:04:25.000] – Allan
Dr. Skillicorn, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

[00:04:29.890] – Dr. Skillicorn
I'm happy to be here.

[00:04:31.000] – Allan
You know, I'm a geek on anything that has to do with health and fitness. And, you know, I had a call which we're going to listen to later from a listener that had some questions for me, trying to find a guest that could could talk about this issue and your book, Healing Depression Without Medication. I got into it thinking, OK, this is another depression.

[00:04:54.880] – Allan
It's depression. So you're talking about depression. And, you know, we're talking about without medication, which, you know, I'm all for it. The fewer medications we can be on, particularly as we get older. For me, the better the side effects and everything else. And you had so many references and stories and you know all this. I go down those rabbit holes, I'm the guy that goes down them rabbit holes.

[00:05:16.030] – Allan
And you created a lot of rabbit hole, which is a good thing. I love love learning new things and getting down into the deep of some of this. So I really appreciated your book. It was it was well researched and well put together.

[00:05:30.980] – Dr. Skillicorn
Thank you.

[00:05:32.070] – Allan
And I know in the subtitle you say Psychiatrist Guide. But this is this is written for everybody.

[00:05:39.300] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yes. Yes.

[00:05:41.750] – Allan
Now, one of the big things that is in science and we've known about it for a long time, it's just kind of surprising to me that we don't take advantage of it more often is the placebo-nocebo effect. Can you talk about those two things? And then I want to dive a little bit deeper into that.

[00:06:00.470] – Dr. Skillicorn
Sure. Absolutely. So placebo comes from the Latin root to please. And so we often placebo, we kind of dismiss, like most people when they talk about it, maybe like, oh, it's just placebo, as if it is this thing for gullible people.

[00:06:15.930] – Dr. Skillicorn
But the reality is we're all influenced by a placebo and placebo is powerful. And pharmaceutical companies spend a whole lot of money to try to figure out how to make it less powerful so that their medications come out slightly better than placebo. But it's actually really hard to do because it's incredibly powerful. It changes the brain and the body in a similar fashion to the medications themselves. And in fact, when we are talking about antidepressants, about 80 percent of the effectiveness of the medication is actually a placebo effect.

[00:06:44.250] – Dr. Skillicorn
One of my favorite placebo studies is is actually one that was done with patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It was a 2010 study. And what they did is they actually divided people with Irritable Bowel into two groups. And so half of them received whatever the best, the most expensive, supposedly most effective medication at the time that was available. And the other group received placebo. But the hitch here was, is the bottle actually said placebo. They knew they were getting placebo, but they were educated on the power of placebo and how it can be just as effective as medications.

[00:07:19.200] – Dr. Skillicorn
And so they told them how effective it could be. And that particularly have seemed to have a strong effect for those with Irritable Bowel. And the results were that those with that came out the same were equally effective. So it's it's very real and very powerful. And unfortunately what we give too often is the opposite. The nocebo effect, which is which means I shall harm. And unfortunately they often all too often, patients that's exactly what they're getting from their doctor.

[00:07:49.830] – Dr. Skillicorn
They're being told that, you know, this is a common problem that has no solutions, which is in effect sort of this pseudo effect of that now, there is no solution available, right? It. It creates hopelessness and a sense of powerlessness. And there's a great story of one of my favorite stories for the nocebo effect, though, was it was a case study of some guys a twenty six year old guy named Mr. A. And he had started, he was put on a drug trial for antidepressants. A couple months after a breakup, which in and of itself is questionable at why he would be on medication for our breakup. But anyway, so he was put on his medication. He started to feel better. And then a couple weeks later, he got in a fight with his ex girlfriend and impulsively overdosed on the medication. And he immediately felt bad about it and called for help. And in the ambulance, it was documented that he was drowsy and lethargic and his blood pressure was low.

[00:08:46.860] – Dr. Skillicorn
He was sweaty. His heart rate was up. And so they called to figure out what he was on, on the trial. And a couple hours someone from the trial came up and told them that basically that he was on placebo. And within 15 minutes he was totally normal again. But the power of, so it's equally powerful. This is what we think and what we perceive and what we believe influences us on every level.

[00:09:17.650] – Allan
Yeah, I had a Marcus Freudenmann on the podcast. He was talking about cancer, curing cancer. And he was one of things he said in the beginning of his book was, you know, you go into your doctor and the diagnosis is cancer and they tell you you have three months to live.

[00:09:34.020] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yes.

[00:09:34.310] – Allan
And most people live three months almost to the day.

[00:09:37.310] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yes.

[00:09:37.610] – Allan
Because their brain is so powerful over what the body's doing. And in many cases, most cases, I guess, actually is more powerful than medication.What I found fascinating in your book was you talked about exposing people to poison ivy. Rather, it was real or imaginary poison ivy. And the results were phenomenal.

[00:10:01.660] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yes. What we think and what we believe in fluids is how our body responds. And yet in the study they took this group of participants were actually exposed to real poison ivy, but they were asked to imagine that the plant was harmless. So this was just using their own the power of their own minds. And over 80 percent of them were able to completely eliminate the histamine response that leads to the itchiness and the redness and the blisters. And then they did a reverse experiment where they exposed a group of people to a perfectly harmless plant, but they imagine it to be poison ivy.

[00:10:35.310] – Dr. Skillicorn
And they broke, a large percent of them broke out in rashes. And it just just shows right, how how important it is to learn to start to notice our thoughts and how we can so that we end up creating a reality. It can be a better reality or worse reality, depending on how we perceive it. Another great story line that lines. You know, given what you do is there was an amazing story that chambermaids. I'll let Dr. Ellen Langer did this study. And in this study, they took a group of women who were just leads in a hotel and they divided into two groups. And, well, at the beginning, they you know, they took a lot of doing their weight and their cortisol levels and their blood pressure and all that kind of stuff.

[00:11:25.280] – Dr. Skillicorn
And all of them were basically reporting that they were barely getting any exercise. I mean, they pretty much just went home and sat on the couch and did nothing or couch potatoes. And then they divided into two groups. And the one group just kind of went about their business and it was doing the exact same thing. But the other group was given a class, just a simple 15 minute class on how in reality all their work at the hotel way exceeded what most people get an exercise in any given day.

[00:11:51.590] – Dr. Skillicorn
And within just a couple weeks, they lost weight and their blood pressure and dropped their sugar levels had dropped and they were looking and feeling better. And all that achieved was a little education in how they perceived what they were actually doing on a daily basis.

[00:12:08.740] – Allan
And that's and that's what's so amazing. You know, just just a thought. Just a positive thought or a belief system that you create for yourself can be that powerful. And when we're talking about depression, you know, I'm not going to say that it's all in your head because there's trauma and things that have happened in your past that you have to work past those things. But there's so many side effects to these medications and they're marginally effective and maybe not even more effective than what we talked about, the placebo.

[00:12:37.510] – Allan
The reason I think it's the reason I reached out and wanted to talk about this topic is one and you put the stats in the book that the number of people on prescription drugs for depression is just astronomical. You know, I have an ex-wife that was using them quite regularly and it was an interesting little rollercoaster we were on. But one of the big, big problems with these drugs is that it makes it extremely difficult to be healthy in other ways to lose weight and whatnot.

[00:13:04.990] – Allan
So I'm going to go ahead, play her recording here.

[00:13:08.260] – Susan
Hello, Allan. This is Susan. And I have a question for you. Have you ever considered doing a program on anti-depressants and anxiety medicines and how they impact metabolism and weight? I am curious about that, because ever since I've been taking Cymbalta and Abilify to deal with my depression and anxiety, my ability to lose weight, I've actually gained weight and then trying to take it off has just been very, very challenging. So I didn't know if you had any resources you could go to share about what are best ways to to deal with that. Thanks.

[00:14:00.160] – Allan
So, Dr. Skillicorn, what do you think about that?

[00:14:03.700] – Dr. Skillicorn
So Susan's absolutely right. So often, all too often, physicians and psychiatrist to blame the patient for the weight gain. But the reality is, is 65 percent of studies on antidepressants are even more when it comes to antipsychotics, which is what Abilify is, show weight gain and not just a little weight gain. But the studies show around fifteen to twenty five pounds within six months to one year are often accumulated after starting these medications. And antipsychotics are getting worse and they've been shown to change our microbiomes.

[00:14:41.170] – Dr. Skillicorn
The balance of make the bacteria in our gut so that it makes it much harder to lose weight. And I'm not sure they figured out what the link is specifically with antidepressants, I think there's different ones. But it is very, very real and very much not mentioned. And in fact, that weight gain actually doubles the risk for diabetes for those who are on antidepressants.

[00:15:07.960] – Allan
Well, you know, we know hormones and mood and a lot of other things do affect how we feel, stress, those types of things. They do impact our body physically. I know when I was working in corporate and the stress levels were higher, it didn't matter how well I felt like I was eating or how hard I was working out, it was just really difficult for me to have the body composition I wanted because the stress was just holding me back.

[00:15:38.800] – Dr. Skillicorn
Absolutely.

[00:15:39.420] – Allan
You know, and it's kind of one of those those catch twenty twos. If you want to workout harder, you're pushing yourself harder. You're creating more stress because you're not seeing what you want. And so, yeah, the meds. If there's a way around the meds, we have to take that path. We have to try that path. And a lot of what you've talked about in the book, I think is huge. We're going to get into a little bit of that in a minute.

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This episode of the 40+ Fitness Podcast is sponsored by Audible. Audible is the leading provider of spoken-word entertainment and audiobooks ranging from bestsellers to celebrity memoirs, News, business, history fiction, and of course, health and fitness. In fact, our guest, Dr. Skillicorn's audiobook, Healing Depression Without Medication, is available on Audible. The Audible app is completely free to download and use on Apple or Android devices. Have a smartphone and a tablet and like to switch between the two, no worries. The Audible App lets you pick right up where you left off. I find their app to be better and easier to use that any podcast op out there. By the way, they're also producing podcasts.

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[00:17:39.880] – Allan
One of the things you went into that is hard for me to talk about, because I I had an interesting child, I just I call it an interesting childhood. I scored pretty well on ACE score, let's just put it that way. And, you know, for me, that was that was just growing up in a in a in a tough environment. And maybe it had something to do with how I lived my thirties and early 40s before I figured a few things out and then. Know how I deal with stress today. Can you talk about the ACE score and how it correlates with some of the health issues that we're dealing with today?

[00:18:17.590] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yeah, so the evidence is overwhelming. So these these adverse childhood events, which could be, you know, more obvious things like abuse, obviously physical, sexual, but also emotional, it can also be emotional to neglect or disconnection. It can be a parent who's depressed and just can't connect.

[00:18:34.720] – Dr. Skillicorn
It can be a parent who's often jail or parents that get divorced or so all these kinds of things or just growing up as a minority, which is becoming painfully obvious these days. I mean, it always has, but it's even more so right now. It's all in our face. But. All of these things cause the nervous system to become more hyper vigilant and more on high alert. So that stress response is amplified to a certain point.

[00:19:01.120] – Dr. Skillicorn
And then at some point it can be cops start to shut down because it's so wrapped up for so long. And that leads to all kinds of physiological changes and inflammation. And even in these childhood events 20 years later, right. There's still signs of inflammation from especially untended acknowledged trauma from from childhood. As far as depression, what the data shows is someone who's had no adverse childhood, and frankly, I haven't met that person yet. But in theory, if the rate is about 15 percent chance for depression, but add in one childhood trauma and it goes up to 25%, 2 and it goes up to 40%.

[00:19:43.000] – Dr. Skillicorn
And by the time you're at 4, it's over 400%. And the risk of suicidality is over a 1000%. The risk of alcoholism, 800% increase and drug addiction 500% increase. And of these people was on more than four cases, 97% of them end up on psychiatric medications. And yet they're the less likely to benefit from them because it's not the issue. The issue is maybe what I think of as a sole wound is that has hasn't been tended.

[00:20:13.660] – Dr. Skillicorn
And just covering it up with meds, I think almost adds to it because that's what kind of children are sort of taught anyway, as you just kind of ignore these things, get on with that buried under the rug. That's often what's happening in these households. And so it's certainly it's not helping the problem whatsoever, but it also physical illness as well.

[00:20:32.980] – Dr. Skillicorn
It doubles the risk of heart disease and cancer, coronary artery disease, stroke quadruples the risk of COPD. So the effects are very, very real and very, very unaddressed in our society.

[00:20:47.380] – Allan
You know, it's interesting that we look back at it the way that doctors treated patients and we're like, that's medieval, you know, who would cut someone's brain in half or electrocute them or, you know, all the little things that doctors have done over the years or big things that doctors have done over the years.

[00:21:04.020] – Allan
And in your your synopsis, as you kind of went through that the history of the medications, it was like, let's let's try this and see what happens. It seems like that's how a lot of it works. And when we're when we're talking about trying to, you know, deal with the disease or, you know, like or something like that, like right now, you know, going through COVID, they're talking about, you know, treatment protocols and things, OK, they're using real science and they're trying some things. Some of them are working on, many of them or not. And it is trial and error. But when you're talking about your brain, that's that's scary.

[00:21:39.390] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yeah. And yet the underlying story with the brain and this is a fairly recent story, is that it is not able to change really that we have a set number of neurons. And so, you know, that doesn't change. In fact, my daughter was showing me hers, reading me from her science book on the brain and the nervous system cell. And she was meeting about neurons and that's what it said in there. I looked and the date of the book was 2004.

[00:22:05.840] – Dr. Skillicorn
I told her she got to tell her teacher. That was totally incorrect. But the reality is that's not true. Our brains are constantly changing with every thought and with every action. Our brains are constantly shifting and rewiring. It's just it appears to be static because all too often we keep sending the exact same message. We keep living our lives in the same way, thinking the same thoughts. And so we get the same results. But if we change the input, we change. We change the wiring. We change the output.

[00:22:34.430] – Allan
Yeah. For me a big part of knowing that you're changing. So it's like it's so easy to stay in our little ruts. You know, this is how it stays.

[00:22:42.750] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yeah.

[00:22:43.880] – Allan
It's like everybody you're like, you look at Facebook and every personal trainer out there or Instagram or whatever, they all want to seem to be like these perfect human beings walking the earth, you know, where the gods of earth and you want to be like us. And I'm like jeez, I'm this dweeb human being that's trying to be a personal trainer that understands what we're supposed to be doing. And so what I know is that you need tools, you need strategies, and you need some tactics.

[00:23:11.950] – Allan
And so I spent a lot of time on the podcast kind of thinking what what are some things that people can be doing? Obviously, they have a why they're listening to this podcast. They have an interest. They want to make some changes. One of the tools that I've always found hugely valuable for me, every time I've done something big, I use a journal.

[00:23:32.400] – Allan
Can you talk about that, because you go in this several times throughout that the the exercises and the things that you have in the book, you talk about journaling. So can you talk about the journal in various ways that journal can help us through this journey?

[00:23:45.650] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yeah. Well, the studies on journaling so that writing for 20 minutes a day for even just a few days can improve mood, decrease our stress and anxiety and even improve our immune systems. That's a pretty powerful way to spend 20 minutes. But more than that, right? I think it's important because we also forget. We forget so often. I see you know, I see people who start to do these tools. They start to feel better and they're doing great.

[00:24:14.420] – Dr. Skillicorn
And then I don't see them for a while. And then they come back and, you know, they're like, nothing's working. I need to go back on meds. And I'm like, remember, you came to me on meds and you weren't doing well. And have you been doing you know, have you been doing a breathing, been exercising, have been eating, you know, what have you been eating? And pretty much they kind of stopped everything that made them start to feel better.

[00:24:33.470] – Dr. Skillicorn
They kind of just forgotten. And that's part of the part of something that we all kind of go through, that you kind of have to go into levels and realize, you know, I mean, these are the tools that actually did make us better. It didn't just magically happen. And then often they become so convinced in that moment. Right. That that's the way they were before that. That's the way it was.

[00:24:54.680] – Dr. Skillicorn
So journals can also just be a really powerful reminder of we hear this. This is actually these are your own words. This is what was going on. You got through it. And so a reminder that we can and we have. And we will again.

[00:25:09.490] – Allan
Yeah. You know, a lot of people, you know, rather we're talking about this or are talking about fitness or anything else. And, you know, I always tell him it's like there's sort of this plateau. But what I want you to do is I want you to go back and look at your journal from three months ago and look at what you were doing then and what where you are now. Yeah. And I said, so, you know, while you're on a plateau, I don't want you to think that you're not on the mountain anymore.

[00:25:33.260] – Allan
You're on basically a ridge and you've got to walk the length of that ridge and you're not. Yeah. You're not going up, which you're still working your way up the mountain range, setting it up, you know.

[00:25:44.090] – Allan
Trust me. And it's like, so just take that look down. Take that look down to see how far you've come. The Journal gives you that. The journal lets you get stuff out. It lets you say, OK, I don't really want to tell someone what I'm thinking, what I. Yeah. And because that, you know, is particularly a guy. It's like, oh, I've got to tell people, you know, how you know.

[00:26:03.950] – Allan
And so just kind of being that vulnerable is really, really hard. So here's an opportunity for you to be vulnerable to yourself, which I think is that self that's self-awareness is so important.

[00:26:13.680] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yes. Yes.

[00:26:14.840] – Allan

[00:26:14.840] – Allan
And so and then the other thing is, I find, you know, once I start journaling. It's this, you know, I want to get the next one, I need to, you know, I need to keep this series going. I don't want to drop my streak, you know. Yeah. You know, I've been doing this running or walking or doing this since training or eating a certain way or doing my meditation or, you know, doing my morning ritual. And I've been doing it for this many days. I want to keep that streak going. So, There are so many ways that you can make a journal valuable. I can't stress enough the value of journaling.

[00:26:50.560] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yeah, it is. In fact, we just moved and I had all these boxes of journals. This is a really heavy habit to have and a lot of space.

[00:27:04.900] – Allan
I've moved to electronic. We moved down to Panama and there's just no way I could I could keep hard copy and have the space down here that we have. So. Yeah. Okay, I have to go to electronic. So, I'm journalling electronic. I'm on my phone or my computer.

[00:27:21.280] – Dr. Skillicorn
Probably much wiser.

[00:27:27.490] – Allan
This is not as nice as writing stuff out. There's just something, there's something different about taking a pencil or a pen to paper and writing. So I wouldn't get away from that entirely. If you if you can do it. Do it. But I do this, you know, stuff here for me is not a not a good thing. So I had to move to electronic for my own sake. But if you can do paper to pen, I think that's that's so much better now.

[00:27:49.840] – Allan
One of the other things you're going into and there's so much in the book that we can be doing to improve that is outside of what medicine would require, but just things that we can do to improve our mood to get past depression can glue going to a counselor can and clearly things. But within the physical realm, you use this thing called shaking. And when I was reading it, I was thinking, this sounds a lot like rebounding. You talk about shaking and then I want to come back around to why I think it's a lot like rebounding.

[00:28:18.430] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yeah, so shaking is actually the oldest form of mind for me. It dates back over a hundred thousand years. They found evidence of people taking pictures on cables. And it's basically and it's used it's also part of Qi Gong. So lots of people learn from actually working as part of that. But it's just it's literally just grounding your feet into the earth. It is ideal if it's in the earth, like actually outside on the ground, but it works anywhere.

[00:28:46.540] – Dr. Skillicorn
And then just shaking your body right by you just needs to move. That's how the toxins get released, how the lymphatic fluid. And it's my body. And so it's a form of exercise, but it's a grounded form so that you can kind of do anywhere any time.

[00:29:01.870] – Dr. Skillicorn
I suppose you would want to do it around a whole bunch of people that quite a bit, I would say, but…

[00:29:06.990] – Allan
They would send you to a psychiatrist in the psych ward.

[00:29:10.950] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yes, crazy person over there.

[00:29:12.200]- Dr. Skillicorn
But yes, just moving everything is just letting it all out. You can literally just feel the stress. Like releasing through the body into the ground. It's it's such a powerful. And so I mean, ideally, I like to go outside and if you do it with music, it's even better. You write just music, kind of getting into the movement and letting the body just move how it needs to move to release what it needs to release.

[00:29:36.670] – Allan
Yeah. What was cause it was you went through about an eight-minute series of shaking and then have your music ready to then just turn it into a dance and enjoy the rest.

[00:29:46.670] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yeah, just joyful dancing.

[00:29:47.650] – Allan
And the reason I say it, it reminds me of rebounding was again, you know, when we're talking about depression. And this is my impression from book is there's toxic feelings, toxic thoughts, toxic experiences from our past that we're trying to get out of our body and the lymphatic system. There are no pumps for us. It's not like our heart or our which is a pump or are our lungs, which have muscles that also cause it to do what it's supposed to do.

[00:30:15.580]
The only way we're gonna get the lymph, which is removing toxins from our body to move, is through skeletal movement, through moving our muscles and moving around. And so movement is very, very valuable. Shaking was one cool one because, again, it kind of gets you moving, getting out nature, walking around, doing those types of things, grounding and moving around again. All those are very, very important. And I'm not just saying this is a personal trainer. You're going to feel better moving around.

[00:30:46.320] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yes, absolutely. I know every time I'm feeling sluggish, right, the last thing you want to do is get up and move, right? You kind of just sink into the couch. And it's hard to move, but it's. But as soon as you do. And I think we've all had this experience. We just instantly do feel better. And especially if it can be, you know, around trees and green.

[00:31:06.590] – Dr. Skillicorn
It's been shown that even 15 minutes outside can improve our mood and decrease stress and anxiety. And again, it can concern main system. And that can last for up to a few weeks. And yet, unfortunately, fewer and fewer of us get outside on a daily basis. Again, less than 10 percent of kids these days spend time outside every day, which is so sad.

[00:31:27.410] – Allan
Dr. Skillicorn, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

[00:31:37.680] – Dr. Skillicorn
So I think we've already mentioned a few of them right? Moving and getting outside. And then, of course, food, food, every every bite of food is energetic. Message to our body is sending a message of imbalance or a balance.

[00:31:54.320]- Dr. Skillicorn
And so really, you know, the more we can avoid processed foods and really eat real foods or fruits and vegetables and whole grains. And, you know, if you eat meat, organic, grass-fed meats, but that's critical for health for both our body and our brain. So that's definitely important when it's been shown that even then, you know, we can decrease our risk of depression by 50 percent just by making small changes to our diet and including more of those whole foods.

[00:32:35.570] – Dr. Skillicorn
And then the other really important one is sleep again, something in our culture that gets undervalued. And there's almost a macho attitude of right.

[00:32:46.880] – Dr. Skillicorn
I can get by on less and I can get more done if I get less. But less than six hours of sleep. And again, we put ourselves at risk for inflammation and we triple or quadruple our risk for depression and dementia and heart disease and strokes and even death is critical for our house. In fact, one night without sleep in our amygdala. So that part of the brain that fight flight freeze, the threat detector gets activated by 60 percent.

[00:33:12.170] – Dr. Skillicorn
So we look around the world and we start to see threats everywhere, even in neutral expressions, even when things are going fine. So it's it's maybe even the importance and sleep it's actually been shown. This was amazing to me. I did not know this before researching for the book. It actually acts as a form of free therapy. So it kind of diffuses our natural experiences through dreams. So it has it's very real valuable in maintaining our emotional and physical health.

[00:33:41.780] – Allan
Thank you, Dr. Skillicorn. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, Healing Depression Without Medication and all the wonderful things that you're doing. Where would you like me to send them?

[00:33:52.420] – Dr. Skillicorn
Yeah. So the book can be found just about anywhere. And I have a website, jodieskillicorn.com. They can find information there. And I also have a Facebook page which is mindful psychiatry. And then also Dr. Jodie is going to question there's two of them.

[00:34:09.910] – Allan
OK. You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/441. And I'll be sure to have the links there. Dr. Skillicorn, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

[00:34:21.080] – Dr. Skillicorn
Thanks for having me.


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