ANCESTRAL JUNKIE

A movement designed to join ancestral health with modern culture

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7 Tips For Natural Childbirth

Pregnancy and Post Partum, BodyHolly SteinComment

When you hear the phrase natural birth, what comes to mind?  Are you in a hospital?  A birth center?  Maybe you’re at home, or out in a field with nature?  One thing is certain, many people see natural birth differently.  To me a natural birth is one that does not include the augmentation of pharmaceuticals like Pitocin (for induction) or epidural for pain relief, and the like.

For the record I am not a healthcare professional nor a birthing expert.  Always consult a licensed professional before making pregnancy related decisions.  I've been pregnant only once and have no idea how things would have turned out had I not followed this regime.  However, I do believe the recommendations in this article created a synergy that surely contributed to my successful natural birth.  That being said, everyone has different needs and mindsets, so please always go with your gut and choose what's best for you.  

You're reading this because the idea of a natural birth has piqued your curiosity.  The first thing to ask yourself is why?  Think for a moment.  Why do you want a natural birth?  For my husband and me there were several reasons:

1.     We wanted to avoid pharmaceuticals during the birth. 

2.     We believe the birth is how the baby's soul transitions to our earthly bodies, and that this experience can have an impact on their life.  We wanted to welcome Rory into a quiet, dimly lit space with candles, soft voices and essential oils.  We wanted it to be a gentle transition

3.     The last reason was a personal one:  I wanted to do it for myself.  I wanted to prove to myself just how strong I am.

A handful of people have told me how "lucky" I am to have had the experience I wanted.  While I do feel extremely fortunate, I wouldn't be so quick to call it luck.  I was very intentional about the choices I made during pregnancy.  I had a goal in mind (natural birth) and I was constantly directing myself towards it.

Luck favors the prepared.

One of the hardest parts for me was hearing comments and opinions about what I was doing!  The things I heard during pregnancy were enough to make your head spin! 

"Don't be a hero, get the epidural” or “Just get the epidural, you have nothing to prove” was common.

"Whatever you do, just get the epidural as soon as you can" was another good one.

Or my personal favorite, "You're not having the baby in a bath tub are you?"

I actually lied to people about where I was giving birth because I felt I would be judged and told I was doing the wrong thing.  Imagine starting a diet and your good friend, who didn’t know your plan, says “Oh man diets are SO HARD!  The only way to do it is to take the weight-loss pills.  If you don’t you are crazy!”  Would you feel confident about your diet?  Same holds true for your birth, only times 1,000.

The following are seven areas to consider when planning for a natural birth:

BIRTHING LOCATION:  This. Is. HUGE.  Birthing a human is insanely challenging and it is of utmost importance to select a location that makes you feel comfortable.  If that’s a hospital, perfect, that's where you should be.  For me, the idea of a hospital made me uncomfortable.  I had read enough statistics and studies to know it is perfectly safe to deliver a baby at a birth center or at home.  I also felt very comfortable knowing that everyone involved in our labor deals with natural birth daily.  That is all they do.  I knew that they would allow me to be in control and trust my body, which was important to me. 

I also set myself up in a scenario where pitocin, epidural and other pharmaceuticals and interventions were not even available.  I didn't have it in my back pocket just in case, and I knew this going in to the birth.  If I wanted an epidural I would have had to get into the car and drive to the hospital. 

If natural birth is what you desire, be warned a very small percentage of women who deliver in hospitals avoid pitocin and epidurals.  Hospitals commonly recommend pitocin, which produces more intense and painful contractions, to “move things along.”  This is frequently the first step that leads to epidural because the pain becomes too much to manage.  If you have not already, please watch "The Business of Being Born."  This documentary goes much deeper than I ever could about the different places to give birth (hospital, birth center, or home).  Here's a link to another shorter video that talks about out of hospital births. 

However, if the idea of being outside of a hospital is terrifying, by all means, be in the hospital.  In order for your body to produce oxytocin to stimulate birthing waves, you need to be calm and relaxed.  Cortisol, the stress hormone, and oxytocin are inversely correlated, so the less stress the better!  Put yourself in a place where stress is minimal!  

BIRTHING TEAM: Your birth team is equally as important as the location.  Our birthing team consisted of a midwife, two midwife's assistants, a doula, and Eric.  There are two things to consider in your team: quantity and quality.  Most midwives will tell you the more people present the longer the labor will be.  Keep your list short.  In regards to quality, choose a team that is aligned with your goals.  People that that take part in only natural births know how to coach laboring women through natural birth.  This is HUGE.  My team ONLY sees natural births.  They treated me as if the whole process was completely normal without even thinking of intervention.

Midwives are great for this because they are trained in the normalcy of birth.  If you are more comfortable with an OB, choose one that is supportive of your goals, and remember no matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, it's never too late to change providers.  

If you are having a hospital birth, consider a doula mandatory.  You have no idea who will be on staff the day you deliver.  The nurses are in and out managing other moms as well.  A doula will dedicate their time and energy to only you.  They help you through each contraction and apply counter pressure when and where it’s needed. 

A doula does not replace your partner, but allows him or her to relax and be more present with you.  It's a lot of pressure for your partner to do it all.  The doula will also help you to labor at home as long as possible, so when you get to the hospital you are in active labor rather than waiting around.  I've heard several women credit their doula for their unmedicated birth at hospitals.

I am so thankful for our doula.  She applied counterpressure exactly where I needed it during the car ride to the birth center.  She held my leg and massaged me at the birth center and allowed Eric to sit there peacefully and connect with me.  Eric and I were extremely prepared, but we had never done anything like this before.  We didn't know what to expect, but having a doula helped reassure us that everything happening is totally normal.

EDUCATION: Choose a birth education course geared towards natural birth.  Hospitals generally encourage augmentation of labor with epidurals, so you’ll want to take a class that educates you a little deeper about coping with the intensity of labor.  Here are a few birth education classes to consider:

HypnobabiesHypnobirthing, The Bradley Method and Birthing From Within

Look at the approach of each and decide which is the best fit for you.  I went with Hypnobabies and REALLY enjoyed it.  Hypnobabies is based on mindfulness and putting yourself into self hypnosis.  It focused on mindset and changing your perception of labor, and promoted the idea that birth is normal and NOT to be feared.  If you are in Orange County, here's the link to our Hypnobabies Instructor...she was AMAZING.  For our next birth I may check out The Bradley Method or Birthing From Within to gain another perspective to add my tool box of birthing knowledge. 

EXERCISE: The first half of pregnancy I maintained my normal exercise which consisted of jogging and weights.  I added in pre-natal yoga the moment I found out I was pregnant at week 6 and was sure to take daily walks with my dog.  My midwife constantly reminded me how important and beneficial walking is for pregnancy.  At about the halfway point I focused solely on walking (about 1.5-2 miles a day) and pre-natal yoga twice a week.  Once I hit 36 weeks I really made sure to step it up.  I didn't miss a day of walking, and in addition to going to yoga twice a week, I also did pre-natal yoga stretches every other day at home.  I believe that this was HUGE for my birthing process. 

I feel that this made the first stage of my birthing a breeze.  At 38 weeks I was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced, 39 weeks 3 cm and 80% effaced, and at 40 weeks on my due date I was 4 cm and 90% effaced.  By the time my water broke on the 11th day past my due date I went straight in active labor almost immediately.  My consistent walking and pre-natal yoga allowed me to get the first stage of birthing over the previous few weeks without feeling or noticing a thing. 

My total birthing time was just 7 hours with a posterior (sunny side up) baby!  Most times posterior babies add several hours to labor, and often end in c-section. 

BIRTH PREP: Starting at 36 weeks I took birth prep herbs from my midwife as well as evening primrose oil for “cervical ripening.”  Sometimes I took it orally, but mostly I would poke a hole into the capsule with a safety pin and insert it vaginally.  When my water broke I was 90% effaced which helped eliminate some of the work.  I also saw a chiropractor to ensure I was in proper alignment the second half of my pregnancy.  Often times the body gets all whacky with the new weight distributions of a baby.  Towards the end I did two acupuncture treatments aimed to trigger induction, which I felt helped, but Rory was just not ready to come yet. 

NUTRITION: This could be a whole other blog post in itself.  Prior to getting pregnant I ate pretty much all organic/non-GMO whole foods.  I tried to avoid processed foods as much as possible and followed a combination of a paleo/ketogenic lifestyle.  High fat, moderate protein, low carb...all from quality sources.  The major tweak I made during pregnancy was increasing protein.  The midwives instructed me to eat 70-80 grams of protein per day.  Pasture raised eggs and a homemade protein shakes using grassfed collagen protein powder were easy ways to get quality protein. 

I noticed carb cravings increased dramatically in the beginning, so I listened to my body and ate more rice and potatoes, and occasionally enjoyed sprouted sourdough bread, toasted, slathered in grassfed butter, with half an avocado spread across each piece.  Ah-maz-ing…

For supplements I followed the exact regimen laid out by Dave Asprey in The Better Baby Book. (HIGHLY recommend that book!).  For more information on diet, The Better Baby Books has a wonderful philosophy on eating for pregnancy.  The principles in this book steered us in the right direction.  We were given massive validation when, after the birth, our midwife said my placenta was one of the healthiest she’d ever seen. 

MINDSET: I believe everything presented so far is important, but mindset takes the cake.  Mindset is what gets you through unexpected bumps in the road.  Mindset gave me the power to stick to the game plan.  The birthing time is intense; the most intense experience I've ever been through, and my mindset was truly my most valuable asset.

Leading up to birth and throughout birthing time I never had a shadow of a doubt if I could do it.  I knew 1,000% I was going to succeed.  When things got intense I forced a smile and moaned positive phrases out loud like, "Relax," "Breathe" and "I can do this."  I knew my biggest enemy would be acknowledging the pain or having doubt.  Birth is absolutely, positively, a mind over matter experience.  Count on it.

In closing I’d like to say that of course the number one priority in any birth is a healthy mom and baby.  Number two is having your ideal birth experience.  We must remember to save our judgments, because not everyone will think or believe the same things.  Every birth and every person can be vastly different, and remembering this can help manage your expectations.  Not everything will go according to plan and it's important to roll with the punches.  Flexibility is a massive asset in natural child birth.

Just be as prepared as you can and remember everything turns out exactly the way it's supposed to.   Home birth, birth center, hospital birth, natural, epidural or scheduled c-section; no matter how your baby enters this world you are bad-ass.  Just remember that you have options and to chose the plan best for you.

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18 Uses For Your Fermented Veggie Brine

Fermented Foods, Holistic Living, Body, Weston Price and NT, Whole 30Holly SteinComment

I'm all about zero waste...and that includes the brine from our homemade sauerkraut.  If you're looking for a way to use that brine, check out 18 different uses below!  

  1. To soak grains for proper preparation (in lieu of whey or apple cider vinegar)
  2. Add a splash to bone broth or hot soup for a fun kick
  3. Use it in deviled eggs when mixing up the yolks
  4. Mix a little into hummus
  5. Add to potato salad for a zing
  6. Use as a marinade for meat (similar to vinegar, it tenderizes)
  7. Put some in your bloody mary.  Enough said.
  8. Add it to your homemade mayo
  9. Mix it in a dip for veggies
  10. Drink it straight!  Or dilute it with flat or sparkling water
  11. Use as a salad dressing (treat as you would vinegar and add some oil, spices, etc.)
  12. Pickle some hardboiled eggs
  13. Add it to your cold soup base 
  14. Add it to egg salad 
  15. Speed up your compost (I can't wait to try this one!)
  16. Add it your fresh veggie juice
  17. Use it it to saute your greens (it will the probiotic, but the flavor will be delish!)
  18. Feed it to your chickens (I wish I had chickens!)
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Natural Cure For Mastitis

Babies and Kids, Body, Holistic Living, Pregnancy and Post PartumHolly SteinComment

About 7 weeks post partum I got mastitis.  I had heard about how awful it was and I was so sure I wouldn't get it.  I made sure to massage my boobs often for the first several weeks, and then I got a little lazy.  I went to bed one night feeling a little sore, so I put a heating pad on my boob.  The next morning I woke up and felt a little flu-like and in more pain.  I immediately texted my midwife, Lauren (Wholistic Women's HealthCare) because I knew she would know what to do!  She gave me the following protocol and told me that she hardly ever has to prescribe antibiotics anymore.  I followed this protocol for 1 day and it completely knocked it out.  I felt SO much better the next morning and continued to rest a second day as a precaution.

Protocol:

  1. REST.  Get in bed and do NOT get out.  Unless you have to pee.  Seriously.  This is non-negotiable.
  2. Drink as much water as humanly possible.  If you have grapefruit seed extract, put a drop in a glass of water.
  3. Eat raw garlic.  I ate a few cloves over the course of the entire day.  I chopped it up into tiny pieces and swallowed them like tiny pills so I wouldn't have to taste it.
  4. Take 5,000-7,000 mg of Vitamin C.  Go slow.  I took 7,000 mg over the course of the day.  If you take too much it can cause you to run to the restroom.
  5. Put heat on the affected breast and massage.
  6. Nurse on the affected breast as much as possible and keep it empty.  I also used a hand pump to keep it empty.
  7. Do as much skin to skin with baby as you can.

This completely saved me!  I really wanted to avoid antibiotics and this combination of things literally cleared it up in one day.  If you find yourself with a case of mastitis, give it a try!

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Ancestral Junkie Recommended Podcast Episode: Mark Sisson on Bulletproof Radio

Body, Keto, Paleo, PodcastsHolly SteinComment

This is an amazing episode for anyone interested in a low carb, keto diet and metabolic flexibility.  Whether you are new to the lifestyle or having been following it for years, it will sure to be on of your favorites!  Click below to listen.

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Fat Bombs

Body, Fat Bombs, Keto, Recipes, Sweet ToothHolly SteinComment

Get into ketosis in less than 60 minutes!

O.M.Geezy.  These fat bombs definitely rival our famous Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Fat Bombs.  They are SO rich and SO perfect for fall.

Ingredients:

  • Fat Bombs:
  • (1) 8 oz. package organic cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbls grassfed butter, softened
  • 3 tbls sweetemer (Xylitol, Swerve or Stevia)*
  • 3 tbls organic pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract
  • 1/2-1 tsp pumpkin pie spice**
  • ----- 
  • Caramel Topping:
  • 3 tbs grassfed butter
  • 3 tbs organic grassfed heavy cream
  • 1 tbs sweetener (Xylitol, Swerve or Stevia) - you could honestly omit or decrease this!  It's so sweet!
  • 1/8 tsp organic vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp organic molasses

Directions:

  1. Use a hand mixer to combine all of the fat bomb ingredients in a bowl (cream cheese, butter, sweetener, pumpkin, vanilla and spice).  Mix until everything is well combined
  2. Form into balls, or scoop in a silicone mold (the one I have shown below).  Put in the freezer for a few hours until firm.
  3. In a small sauce pan, combine all caramel topping ingredients.  Heat until bubbling and then turn off to let cool and thicken up.
  4. After fat bombs are firmed up, drizzle with caramel topping.
  5. Store fat bombs in the freezer.  I like to pull them out about 15-20 minutes before I enjoy them to let them soften up a little bit.

Shopping Guide:

*This makes a decently tart bomb, but I find the sweetness of the caramel topping works!

**Made of 5 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp clove, 1/4 tsp nutmeg 

Lemon Coconut Snack Bites

Body, Fat Bombs, Keto, Paleo, Sweet Tooth, Weston Price and NT, RecipesHolly SteinComment

I have to admit that doing keto and Whole 30 at the same time is challenging.  It's really eliminating the dairy that makes it tough for me...however I KNOW that I feel better when I lay off most dairy (aside from butter).  These lemon coconut bites are a great high fat/low carb snack that are also Whole 30 approved!  I modified a recipe I found from Happy Healthy Mama.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • Juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 2 tbls coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Put cashews in the food processor until they are pulsed into crumbs
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until combined
  3. Form into balls (I usually get about 16-20 based on how big I make them)
  4. Store in the fridge

That's it!  Seriously, so fast and easy..and delicious too!

Estimated nutrition facts based on 16 bites:

  • Fat - 9.5 grams
  • Protein - 2.6 grams
  • Net Carbs - 4.25 grams
  • Sugar - 0.62 grams

Pumpkin Spice Latte - Keto/Whole 30/Paleo

Keto, Paleo, Recipes, Whole 30, Sweet Tooth, BodyHolly SteinComment

I admit I used to be a serious PSL drinker...and every time October rolls around I tell myself I'm going to create my own version of the Starbucks drink.  I never did, until now.  I actually went out and bought a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte to refresh myself what it actually tasted like.  My initial reaction was $4.45!?!?? FOUR DOLLARS AND FORTY FIVE CENTS!? What an exorbitant amount of money.  Then I tasted it.  Holy cow was it SWEET.  Way too sweet for my liking these days. If you follow the Ancestral Junkie philosophy of nutrition, you would think it's too sweet too.  If you are new to the high fat/low carb life, rest assured this new PSL tastes pretty damn good for almost no sugar and carbs....and I promise after a few sips you won't even miss the original version.

Ingredients:

  • 1 TBLS grassfed butter
  • 4 TBLS organic, full fat coconut milk*
  • 1/2 TSP organic vanilla extract (Use vanilla bean powder if Whole 30) - to be honest, sometimes I just go for the vanilla extract even if I'm doing Whole 30. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.
  • 1/4-1/2 TSP pumpkin pie spice**
  • 1/2 TBLS organic pumpkin puree (If you don't want to go buy a whole can just for this, you could live without it)
  • 1-2 TSP of sweetener (Xylitol, Stevia or Swerve); 2 tsp was plenty for me!*** (OMIT THE SWEETENER IF YOU ARE WHOLE 30)
  • Organic coffee brewed to your preference (I make 16 oz thermos full with 1.5-2 tbls ground coffee)

Ingredients:

  1. Brew coffee.  I'm partial to my french press
  2. While coffee is brewing, add the rest of the ingredient into a large mason jar.
  3. When coffee is done, pour into the jar and blend with an immersion blender.
  4. If you're doing dairy, option to top with some homemade whipped cream and sprinkled cinnamon

*For a creamier version use grass-fed heavy whipping cream if you are not Whole 30/Paleo

**Made of 5 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp clove, 1/4 tsp nutmeg 

***1 packet = 1 tsp; also, I prefer xylitol :)