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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

Naturopath Helps Patients Manage Wellness

Jan 05, 2015 06:41PM ● By Sheila Julson

Sarah Axtell

Naturopathic doctor Sarah Axtell, owner of Lakeside Natural Medicine, remembers having an interest in health and nutrition from childhood on. “I was the weird kid who didn’t like junk food,” chuckles the native of Cincinnati, Ohio, who recalls always liking to cook. Her mother was a runner, and emphasized health, exercise and the conviction that food is medicine.

Axtell attended UW–Madison and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics and nutrition in 2006. Graduation left her at a crossroad, deciding between pursuing conventional medical school and becoming a dietitian. Both fields felt somewhat lacking, because she wanted to merge the two to ultimately help people understand how food and nutrition affect our overall well-being.

A career as a naturopathic physician seemed to be the next logical step. She relocated to Portland, Oregon, to attend the National College of Natural Medicine and earned a doctorate in naturopathy in 2011. During that time, she was involved in research at the school’s Helfgott Research Institute, where she focused extensively on the study of detoxification.

Living in Portland not only provided Axtell with the education and opportunity to pursue the career she desired, but also led her to her husband, Chris Axtell, whom she married in 2009. She gave birth to two daughters while still enrolled in school.

The family liked Portland, but Axtell found that the area was already saturated with naturopathic doctors. “Portland is the mecca of natural medicine. Everyone there has a naturopathic physician,” she notes. “So we decided to move to my husband’s hometown, Milwaukee, where there was also a need for naturopathic medicine.” In 2011, Axtell established her private practice at her current location inside Shorewood Family Chiropractic.

Unlike most conventional medicine practices, where the physician sees the patient for 10 minutes and often prescribes a symptom-suppressing drug, Axtell explains that naturopathic medicine philosophies are patient-focused. She spends an hour or more during an initial visit getting to know the patient’s lifestyle and history. Specialized lab tests, such as those for food sensitivities, hormones, adrenal function and more, are used to help identify the underlying cause of disease and develop treatment through dietary changes, herbs or supplements. “It’s about connecting the dots to identify and treat the cause,” she affirms.

Axtell believes that good health requires that patients become educated so that they can take control of their wellness. “Some people simply aren’t aware of how much water they should really be drinking, or that they shouldn’t eat a certain food; for example, items containing gluten, which can trigger allergies leading to headaches or discomfort,” she observes. “Doctor is derived from the Latin word docere, meaning ‘to teach,’” she adds, noting that she is realistic and tries to meet patients where they are. She works to help them overcome obstacles preventing them from making positive lifestyle changes that prove too difficult.

Axtell shares nutritional tips, healthy eating advice and recipes through a blog on the Lakeside Natural Medicine website. A believer in continuing education, she gives talks to help empower people to take charge of their own health and holds classes and workshops that focus on body cleansing, cooking and eating well.

Axtell is licensed as a primary care physician in the state of Oregon. Wisconsin is one of 33 states that currently do not license naturopathic physicians, but she’s optimistic about future changes. “There’s definitely a need for naturopathic medicine. Taking a preventative approach to health care, rather than just focusing on disease management, can help reduce the astronomical costs of health care in the United States,” she asserts, adding that she is an active member of the Wisconsin Naturopathic Doctors Association, a nonprofit that comprises professionals dedicated to lobbying for state recognition and licensure for naturopathic doctors in Wisconsin.

Axtell is pleased to see more people becoming aware of naturopathic principles, as evidenced by the increasing number of patients that come to her ready to make positive changes to improve their physical and mental well-being.

Lakeside Natural Medicine is located at 4433 N. Oakland Ave., in Shorewood. For more information, call 414-939-8748 or visit