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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Lakeside Natural Medicine Continues to Grow

Dr. Sarah Axtell

by Sheila Julson

Since opening Lakeside Natural Medicine in 2011, naturopathic doctor Sarah Axtell has seen a steady increase in the number of people seeking natural and alternative approaches for their health. To better serve that demand, she and her husband/business manager, Chris, began construction on a new 2,000-square-foot clinic in Shorewood—just down the street from their present location on Oakland Avenue. The new space will have room for an additional naturopathic doctor and the new Food is Medicine teaching kitchen.

Naturopathic medicine addresses the root cause of illness, disease prevention and optimizing wellness, and Axtell is passionate about using food and nutrition as a primary avenue toward achieving and maintaining good health. Before getting a doctorate in naturopathic medicine from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, Axtell earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from UW-Madison.

“Our vision is to create a Food is Medicine center for Milwaukee, and we will offer a new service, ‘Doctor in the Kitchen,’ consisting of small group visits and larger nutrition workshops,” Axtell enthuses. As an avid cook, she’ll often print recipes in her current practice for patients to help them get excited about new food ideas. The new kitchen will allow the naturopathic doctors to work hands-on with their patients to demonstrate how easy it is to make nutritious foods like a green smoothie, which the patients will then be able to taste.

The new clinic, which will be double the size of the current office, will allow space for an additional naturopathic doctor who will be announced closer to the new clinic opening in Spring 2020. In 2016, Axtell brought naturopathic doctor Joanne Aponte on board, who, like Axtell, takes natural approaches toward autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, hypothyroidism and more. Aponte had previously owned her own naturopathic private practice in Elm Grove and worked as the naturopathic doctor on site at Good Harvest Market, in Pewaukee.

Axtell is enthusiastic about showing patients the healing power of food. “It’s the most powerful tool we have to address disease,” she says. “I don’t just view foods as calories; food can change gene expression, affect the microbiome, can increase or decrease inflammation and can regulate hormones, including the thyroid.”

The main role of the thyroid is to regulate metabolism. Axtell says one of the most common conditions she sees is hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid gland; and Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune condition that results in destruction of the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s is commonly missed in conventional medical tests, she says, because most medical doctors test for either an underactive or an overactive thyroid, but not for markers that can determine if a patient has Hashimoto’s.

“While it’s important to check if thyroid hormones are balanced, it’s also important to look if there’s underlying autoimmune involvement,” she explains. “A lot of people who come to me are already on thyroid medication, but they’re still struggling with fatigue, weight loss resistance, depression, joint pain, constipation, hair loss and brain fog.”

Axtell believes there’s a place for thyroid replacement hormones like Levothyroxine or Armour, but that it’s equally important to address underlying causes. She notes that nutritional deficiencies commonly play a role, particularly for selenium, B12, iron and zinc.

“A gluten-free diet is also important when it comes to Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism,” she emphasizes. “This is important due to the phenomenon called ‘molecular mimicry’. This is where the body stimulates a cross-reaction autoimmune response to not only gluten but also the thyroid gland. When a person with Hashimoto’s consumes gluten, the body could mistake that gluten for the thyroid, and stimulate an attack on the thyroid. This is because the molecular structure of gluten is similar to that of thyroid tissue.”

Since stress can also adversely affect the thyroid gland, Axtell says that learning stress management techniques can help optimize thyroid function, as well as reduce detrimental effects of environmental toxins. She warns that fluoride, bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic bottles, canned foods, pesticides used in conventional farming and even grocery store receipts can disrupt the fragile thyroid gland.

Axtell and Aponte offer one-on-one naturopathic health and wellness consultations and spend up to an hour with each new patient. “We address them from head to toe,” Axtell affirms. “If they come in for thyroid conditions, we don’t just talk about the thyroid. We talk about their digestive tract, their stress level, skin, diet, mood and joints, to identify root causes. It’s a holistic approach,” she concludes.

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

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.