Sarah Axtell has always wanted to be a doctor. She considered conventional medical school, but as she learned more about traditional medicine, she found it lacking in its emphasis on symptom management. It wasn’t until she found naturopathic medicine that her passion for nature, science, and health culminated in the ultimate “Aha!” moment. Sarah Axtell graduated from naturopathic medical school in Portland, OR in 2011. She then decided to pioneer natural medicine to the Midwest, eventually opening up her practice, Lakeside Natural Medicine, in Milwaukee, WI.
The Learning Curve
Sarah Axtell is an entrepreneur at heart. As an adolescent, she ran a busy boat-cleaning business during the summer. Throughout naturopathic medical school, she had a strong vision of what she wanted her future clinic to be like. But, that drive and ambition didn’t come without challenges.
In her first year of practice, she was doing it all: seeing patients five days a week, checking them in and out, scheduling, and answering the phone. She was genuinely burning the candle at both ends. One night, in a state of exhaustion, she broke down. She had spent the whole day preaching self-care to her patients but wasn’t taking that time for herself. Her husband, Chris, recognized her need for someone to manage the clinic’s business side so she could do the doctoring she was so passionate about. He took a leap of faith and quit his job to start working for Lakeside Natural Medicine. It was the best decision for Sarah Axtell’s business, family, and adrenal glands!
Since then, the whole family has gotten involved. Sarah Axtell works with her husband every day, and their daughters pitch in to help with restocking and making nutrition videos! She has also learned a lot from those early days, and her advice to women who want to start a business is to allow time for self-care. There’s always work to be done, but it’s not sustainable to work around the clock because burnout is real. For Sarah Axtell, daily exercise is non-negotiable, but it’s all about finding what works for you.
Sarah Axtell also loves to be productive. She gets an absolute adrenaline rush from crossing off her to-do list. But, over the years, she’s found that she’s more productive when she creates boundaries for herself. She takes Saturdays off from work and turns her computer off by 8 p.m. When she sticks to these limits, she ultimately feels more refreshed the next day and is more productive.
Food as medicine
This year, Sarah Axtell moved her clinic into a beautiful new space. It’s now doubled in size, with plenty of room for three naturopathic doctors to practice. For the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, her office shifted to telemedicine. Now, they do a combination of telemedicine and in-office visits.
Sarah Axtell is passionate about long-term health goals and is different from other naturopathic doctors because of her emphasis on food as medicine. She tries to inspire all of her patients to begin their healing process in the kitchen. The practical nutrition advice she teaches is empowering to patients.
In the clinic’s new space, there’s a teaching kitchen where Sarah Axtell is excited to use her “food as medicine” approach with patients. Although it’s not safe to have large groups come together right now, she’s looking forward to hosting virtual nutrition workshops.
Sarah Axtell thinks of cooking and food as love. She cooks for the people she loves, like her husband, daughters, staff, and volunteers at her local food pantry.
“When they go low, we go high.”
Sarah Axtell’s mother, ever-positive and always the optimist, is one of the women she looks up to the most, alongside her sisters and daughters. Her mother is the one who helped her get to where she is today and overcome adversity along the way. Her mother’s motto is, “Run hard in the morning, and everything else seems easy.” She taught Sarah Axtell the importance of caring for her body with exercise and nutrition. For Sarah Axtell, exercise is the key to mental clarity and the physical energy to get through those marathon days.
But with all the work she’s done in optimizing her productivity, Sarah Axtell is still learning how to slow down. She’s been working on meditation and decompresses by taking walks after dinner with her husband. Right now, she’s reading “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country” by Sarah Smarsh.
While Sarah Axtell is somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to technology, she does appreciate her Macbook for all her charting and blogging needs. One of the things she’s learned from being an entrepreneur is to be grateful, and she knows a thank you card or social media shoutout goes a long way.
For Lakeside Natural Medicine, social media has been a great way to share recipes and health tips. Her favorite Instagram account is @daniellewalker, who runs Against All Grain, because of all the great recipes she shares. But, social media can’t replace face-to-face interaction and connection, and Sarah Axtell values authenticity. She believes people can tell when you’re practicing what you preach, and if your work comes from the heart.
If Sarah Axtell could have a private breakfast with anyone, it would be Michelle Obama. Perhaps while drinking Matcha lattes with almond milk- Sarah’s favorite drink with just the right amount of caffeine! She and her daughters live by Michelle Obama’s quote, “When they go low, we go high.” When the world seems like it is in turmoil, Sarah Axtell said this quote guides her family to be their best selves.
As a mysterious Scorpio, Sarah Axtell does have a secret talent: she can tap dance! But that Scorpio energy doesn’t manifest itself in every part of her personality because she knows you can’t be an entrepreneur by yourself. Build your team, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Keeping in Touch with Sarah
Follow Sarah Axtell’s work on Instagram at @LakesideNaturalMedicine. Sarah is most excited about their new clinic space with a teaching kitchen. Although at this time it is not safe to physically bring big groups together in the space, she is excited to host virtual nutrition workshops.