Founder Spotlight Dr. Josh Axe

Founder Spotlight: Dr. Josh Axe from Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition


Dr. Josh Axe, founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com, is a certified doctor of natural medicine (DNM), doctor of chiropractic (DC) and clinical nutritionist (CNS) with a passion to help people get healthy by empowering them to use nutrition to fuel their health. He is the bestselling author of KETO DIET and Eat Dirt, and the upcoming COLLAGEN DIET book. Dr. Axe founded the natural health website DrAxe.com, one of the top natural health website in the world today. Its main topics include nutrition, natural medicine, fitness, healthy recipes, home DIY remedies and trending health news. His website includes a group of credentialed editors, writers and a Medical Review Board.

Dr. Axe is also the co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, which provides protein powders, holistic supplements, vitamins, essential oils and more to the modern world. Most recently, he launched his podcast, The Dr. Axe Show which is already in the Top 15 Health and Wellness Podcasts on Apple Podcasts.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you developed a passion for helping others? 

Yeah. So, for me, my passion and my, what I’ll call my sort of mission and cause was born out of really just a health crisis in my family. Growing up, my family was really into fitness, but never really into health. And at 40 years old my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was really just shocking to us because when you would’ve looked at my mom, you would have thought, “Hey, she is fit, she’s healthy.” But yet she got a cancer diagnosis and my family lived in what I’ll call kind of the medical model growing up, anytime we were sick, we took lots of drugs, we got put on antibiotics, medications. And really growing up, my family, even though we were really fit, we were always having these health problems. And my mom then went through the conventional treatments of having a mastectomy and going through chemotherapy.

And I remember how ill she got, I’m thinking to myself, “There’s got to be a better way than this.” And she was eventually diagnosed as being cancer free and healthy. But really after going through those treatments, she seemed like she had more health problems than she had ever had before. She was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, struggled with digestive issues, got put on antidepressant, anti-anxiety drugs. So my mom was just sick and tired all the time. 10 years later she was diagnosed with cancer again. And at that point I was a year from graduating and starting a functional medicine practice. And I was really blessed at the time to have some amazing mentors and people who really understood things like ancient Chinese medicine and integrative medicine.

And so with my mom, rather than going into conventional route, we decided to do natural treatment. So my mom started juicing vegetables every single day. She started using herbs like turmeric. She started reducing stress, all kinds of these natural holistic treatments. And we went back to her oncologist after a few months and we got a call the next day after they’d read a CT scan and their exact words were, “We’re a little in shock. This is highly unusual, but your tumors have shrunk in half.” They said, “Keep doing what you’re doing and we want to see you again in several months.” She went back later, they’d shrunk again, and a year later she was in complete remission. So my mom today, she’s 67 years old in the best shape of her life. My parents moved from Ohio down to Florida, where they water ski and they run and they’re just doing amazing at 67 and 70. 

My business was born out of a passion of helping to teach people how to use food as medicine. That’s my passion. And with that passion, I learned other principles that were key in running a business and apply those to digital marketing and eCommerce and in our retail business. That’s what got me started to where I’m at today.

Now, we live in an age where, especially in any food or supplement industry, manufacturers are often cutting corners. And quite frankly, the transparency isn’t there. It’s hard for consumers to know exactly what something was created with. How have you been fighting back on that and what would be your advice to those who really want to be conscious about what they’re putting in their body?

I would say for us, authenticity is so key for people. And also today we’re in a movement where there’s more questioning of these large businesses that we know their chief goal is profit over people. And so, for me, the way that we run our business, it’s really people first and profit second. And we run a highly profitable business. But again, it’s all about serving the consumer and putting them first and not cutting corners.

So, I think, when people are looking at their food supply today, you need to look at those companies that are being open and they’re being authentic and they’re sharing what they’re putting in their products. For us, we use almost exclusively organic products. We work, we have partnerships with farms. In fact, I’m flying over to New Zealand here in a couple of months with one of our number one brand partners, Whole Foods. So Whole Foods Market, we’re going with their five team leaders along with myself and four of our team leaders, and we’re filming an entire documentary. Our brand is called Ancient Nutrition, but we’re doing a whole product line that’s going to be based around what we’re calling Ancient Origins. And New Zealand today has the highest standards in the world for product quality, for the way that they raise their animals, the way that they grow certain nutrients and products.

We’re doing an entire line with New Zealand and we’re capturing the entire thing on video. So, people are going to be able to see where the Manuka Honey comes from. They’re going to see where the collagen, the actual cows that are grazing the fields, they’re going to see the Moringa leaves that grow in the trees there in a wild organic place in New Zealand. So anyways, we have found for our brand that that transparency and being open and honest with the customer is so important for growth. And listen, especially in a world of social media today, we’re sharing this on Instagram, on Facebook, on YouTube, on our website and on our sales videos, and we’re sharing it everywhere.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think a lot of marketers, when they think about building a brand, oftentimes they’re so overly focused on the visuals of the brand and how it looks. I think Whole Foods is actually a perfect example. So John Mackey, who’s the co-founder of Whole Foods, wrote a book that was called The Whole Foods Diet, and the book makes it simple for folks to understand, but also helps explain John’s philosophy about why he’s picking the products that he’s picking and selling things that he himself stands behind.

Absolutely. Yeah. John Mackey, what an amazing mission-preneur who’s out there trying to change lives. So, he’s done something really incredible with Whole Foods Market and we see that, we see them as being the people that have really been a huge pioneer, the biggest pioneer in probably all of the retail health food movement.

I remember there was one section of his book where he talks about it being a tough balance between selling what you want to sell and selling what other people will buy. And I think at the time Whole Foods went out on a limb because they were selling products that they stood behind, but the consumer didn’t want yet. There wasn’t the demand for it. And so, I think they were ahead of their time and creating now what is actually becoming trendy and there’s actually way more awareness with consumers. Now, Dr. Axe is actually driving a lot of that awareness through content as well. How have you been able to not only share your brand and share your story, but bring consumers along the journey with you and educate? 

For us, we really believe that education is key. And listen, this is something that people in digital marketing especially cannot cut corners on. And we’ve seen this in our own business. There is a healthy cadence of education value really mixed with you asking the customer for something in return. And so for us, we’re really conscious of, “Hey, we sell turmeric, we sell collagen, we sell a super greens formula, we sell probiotics.” But we’re not just always asking for a sale and promoting. We’re just adding value and consciousness. Whether it’s giving people a free shopping list or sharing recipes, “Hey, here’s a free keto pancake recipe or paleo chocolate chip cookies.” It’s me getting on a video and doing a two minute video where I’m talking about, “Hey, here’s some healthy travel holiday tips that you need to follow.” Like, “Hey, whenever you’re traveling, bring this natural trail mix
with you of walnuts, raisins and goji berries.” You know?

So, for us we are constantly saying we want to add value and it’s education first. And then we want to get people so educated and inspired to consume something or change a behavior that they’re naturally going to go out and look for our products. And we’re building credibility at the same time as well. So I think, again, this is something that a lot of people, I would say, quite frankly, Vincent, this is probably to me the most important thing between a great company and a good company when it comes to their marketing is are you adding value even in your marketing copy? Are people learning something?

If your general goal is, which most salespeople tend to say, “I’m going to manipulate and do anything I can to get a sale. Hey, it’s 50% off right now.” If you’re living and dying by a scarcity mentality of, “Hey, there’s a percentage of a sale and it goes away tomorrow. Or if you don’t buy this, you’re missing out.” You know what? That’s creating a brand that’s going to die and not perform well long term, because manipulation or putting a carrot in front of somebody only lasts so long, versus if you create a conviction in somebody. I’ll give you an example.

A conviction is a strongly held moral belief. Okay? And I’ll tell you for me, like for somebody, I don’t eat fast food anymore because to me putting fried oil that’s genetically modified in my body, going to a fast food restaurant, I am so convicted that that destroys my body. That not only destroys my body, that fast food restaurants, they’re bad for the environment. They’re actually killing kids today. They’ve actually said that. The Mayo clinic and the largest medical study journals in the entire world have come out and said, “Eating French fries is as bad as smoking cigarettes.”

So anyways, all that being said, if I’m educating the public on, “Listen, everybody, from the bottom of my heart, I want to see you healthy and well. Stay away from the French fries for this reason. But Hey, let me give you something you could do instead. Take sweet potatoes, cut them up, use some olive or coconut oil and you have natural sweet potato fries. Or, hey, here’s a brand or a restaurant chain where you can go buy these for yourself.” And educate the public on something that literally changes the life of their family and they then become convicted themselves, and they become convicted that their health is so important, it’s such a gift. 

You see what starts to happen there? When they start becoming morally convicted that, “Hey, Ancient Nutrition and their products, they’re following the highest standards in the world. They’re following organic. They’re following wild crafted. They’re following ancient methods of fermentation. Their formulas are based on ancient Ayurvedic medicine, which is over 3,000 years old.” Well, people start to understand all of these nutritional principles and they add value to the people. Aside from even taking our products, there is a brand loyalty that’s created to that product that lasts forever. And people actually go out of their way. They’ll spend more money. They’ll go to a website rather than click one button on or pick something up at their local grocery store in order to get the product.

I know that’s a little bit of a tangent, but just to say, I think creating this spirit of number one, you’re educating and adding value to people and creating a spirit of conviction and belief about a topic that is related to the product. If you can do that, that’s really such a game changer when it comes to creating what I call a purpose driven business, which ultimately over time is going to create more sales as well.

So there’s a lot of competition in the e-commerce space and it seems like even today, in the low carb space, in the keto space, whether it’s the paleo, whether it’s the Whole30, there’s a new player popping up almost every single day. And in e- commerce, it’s quick to get something started and inexpensive compared to a traditional business. What are your thoughts on really building a long-term, sustainable brand? And how has that brand identity, in Ancient Nutrition, how has that made you stand out across the industry? 

Well, you said it right there. If you want to stand out in any category, you have to create your unique selling proposition, which really comes down to brand. I think that is key and I’ve seen this throughout the nutraceutical space. It’s all about creating a world-changing brand that abides by certain principles that are unique and above what other people are willing to do. And so for, if it’s keto, I’ll give you an example. We have a keto product called Keto Protein and our brand competitors that are popping up into this space, they’re putting in things like conventional butter and whey protein. That’s not really healthy for anybody doing just butter and skim milk. That’s essentially what it is in the ingredients. In our product, we put coconut oil or something called MCT oil, which is a really unique fat from coconut oil.

We put in bone broth oil, which is an oil that comes from bone broth, which is really rich in nutrients. We put in a bone broth collagen protein. We put in herbs like ashwagandha, we put in green juices like wheat grass juice. We put in turmeric. So within our protein product, we have the most amazing super foods found around the world. And we follow our principles. So we’re called Ancient Nutrition because the products that we create are based on ancient principles of nutrition, most of them which were founded with traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and some Greek medicine, some of what Hippocrates followed.

All that being said, the key is one, building a brand that stands for something and educating, being better at educating. But I think that’s really the key thing you said is how do you continue to stick out in a space that becomes congested? And number one, you do it with brand, a brand that is committed to excellence and authenticity and adding value to customers. I think if somebody does that, I think they’re going to continue to…we always say the organic grass fed cream always rises to the top. So, if people follow that formula, they’re going to continue to do that in all industries.

That makes a lot of sense. You know we’ve talked about the importance of educating, so, I have three questions for you to help educate our listeners. The first one is why organic unprocessed foods? Second one, you mentioned fats, I thought fats were bad for you, and I’ve heard things about wild caught fish and Omega three fats. So let’s jump on that. And what’s the health benefit of turmeric?

Sure. Organic, fat, and turmeric. When it comes to organic, what does organic mean? It means naturally grown and you’re not adding things to it that are not natural. So, we know that if you’re consuming, just an example, a blueberry versus high fructose corn syrup you’re going to find in a candy bar. It’s not apples to apples. They’re very different in how they affect your body. One is very high glycemic and it’s going to cause inflammation, where one isn’t going to, especially when it’s consumed as part of a whole food. So anyways, all that being said, organic studies have shown organic foods are more nutrient dense. So, if you buy a tomato that’s organic, it’s going to tend to have extra magnesium, more calcium, more lycopene, which is an antioxidant that fights prostate cancer and improves your skin health and longevity. So, why organic? Number one, it’s more nutrient dense. Number two, it’s free of toxins, which are linked to diseases, especially diseases of the liver and lungs. And in the gut.

And then, from there, when we’re talking about fats, there’s good fat and bad fat. There’s good carb, there’s bad carbs, there’s bad protein, there’s good protein. So yeah, fats, I mean, here’s the thing to think about too. There are no essential carbohydrates. You can live with eating zero carbohydrates, hence the keto diet. You can’t live for a long, long time if you don’t have fat. There’s actually something called essential fatty acids. What’s the word essential mean? It means you must have it in order to be healthy.

So there’s essential amino acids, which are proteins, which form of protein and essential fatty acids which make up fat. And here’s the other thing, the majority of your entire brain is made up of fat. Every cell in your body has what’s called a lipid bilayer, which means every cell in your body is made up of fat, the outer part. And so we have to have fat in order to be healthy. It just determines are you eating good fat or bad fat? The good fats are Omega three fats from wild caught salmon, from walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp. It’s some Omega nine fats found in things like olive oil, different types of nuts, especially almonds. Avocados are full of those Omega nine fats. And then some healthy saturated fat you’re going to get from things like coconut and grass-fed beef and sustainably sourced palm oil and maybe even some grass-fed butter or ghee.

Turmeric is one of the world’s most amazing super foods, turmeric has a compound called curcumin, which reduces inflammation. It also has a compound called turmerone, which boosts stem cells in your body, which basically means it’s going to help regenerate and create new tissues. So if you’ve torn a ligament in your knee or something in your shoulder, it actually helps your body create new and healthy tissues. And so turmeric probably nature’s most powerful super herb for so many reasons. And listen, there’s lots of other great herbs that are good for different conditions. Ginkgo biloba, lion’s mane mushroom are amazing for your brain. Ginseng and Rhodiola and ashwagandha are great for your thyroid and for energy.

You’ve got astragalus and ginger, which are great for your digestive system. You’ve got reishi mushroom and elderberry and echinacea, which are great for your immune system. But turmeric in particular is so great because it’s anti-inflammatory and most conditions today, whether it be heart disease, diabetes, cancer, all of those have an inflammatory component, which is why turmeric is great, and I throw CBD in there as well. CBD oil is great for sleep and great for inflammation and great for calming stress hormones, which makes that another great natural remedy.

Thank you so much for that overview. My wife and I started on this journey about two years ago and at the beginning of it, one of the things that I thought was, “I just don’t want to give up my happiness. I don’t want to change the way that I’m eating because I love so many of these foods.” And what I’ve come to realize two years later is things like lasagna that I really like, just swapping out the pasta with zucchini. I almost can’t taste the difference or things like pizza, just swapping it with a cauliflower crust. I’m still eating the things that today still make me happy. But just a little purposeful change in those foods has made a huge difference. And I just feel a lot better day to day. 

You know, Vincent, I mean, what you hit on is the way that I worked. When I used to, which I don’t anymore, but when I used to run my full-time clinic, my functional medicine clinic, really, the biggest thing I taught patients was how to make food swaps. So I told them, “Hey, it’s not you can’t eat oil. Just switch the vegetable oil over to olive oil or avocado oil or coconut oil or butter. There’s plenty of natural ingredients. It’s not that you can’t have carrot cake or brownies or chocolate chip cookies, switch from the white flour over to the gluten free spelt flour or rice flour or coconut or almond flour.” So, I still have chicken Parmesan. My wife and I still have pizza. We had chocolate chip cookies last night for dessert. We just use healthy, natural ingredients and we’re healthier for it.

We feel better for it. We perform better at work and in other areas of life for it. So, I love that you said that, because I found when you try and steal something or take something away from somebody, it kind of creates a sense of misery versus just saying, “Hey, just make a simple lateral shift.” Most people are able to do that. It may take a little more work, but over time people have found it’s worth it.

Now, you’ve launched a new podcast, The Dr. Axe Podcast and another business podcast that’s launching in April. Tell us a little bit about that and what listeners can expect to hear.

Yeah, so my current health podcast, we cover a lot of the things you’ve heard. We cover how to boost your immunity, how to get rid of chronic pain, how to heal your adrenal glands, heal a thyroid, balance hormones, boost testosterone in men, improve brain and neurological performance. We talk about essential oils, we talk about ancient herbs, we talk about lots of stuff. So, some of my first interview were with people, like Dr. Oz was amazing interview. We, him and I, really talked about using herbs as medicine. We had Dr. Alex Loyd who talked about healing your emotions and mental state. Anyways, we’ve had so many great interviews. So people can just search Dr. Josh Axe on iTunes, find my podcast there and subscribe. I think you’ll love it. And also follow me on Instagram @drJoshAxe, where I post lots of health tips.

And then I have a business podcast. It’s a leadership and personal growth podcast. So, if people are looking to take their business to the next level and their life and their personal growth and leadership skills to the next level. I’ve started a business podcast as well and that launches in April. And that’s really going through how to build a purpose-based business. Some of my first interviews are with John Maxwell, Michael Hyatt, Neil Patel, Amy Porterfield, just some really game changers in the business. And we talk about how to grow yourself, grow your business using things that actually work. And so those are the two podcasts I have.

And as you’ve grown these businesses, team is obviously important. It takes a village to be able to build any of these ventures. What are some of the mistakes that you made early on and what did you learn from those mistakes as you were building your team?

Yes. So you said something that is just so critical is that it does, it takes a team to win. We know that principle from Good To Great, chapter two of the book, get the right people on the bus. It is so critical to creating a great company. So that being said, earlier in my career, what would I have done differently? Here’s what I would’ve done. I would’ve equipped my team even better and spent more time finding the right team player. So here’s an example. We hired a Chief Marketing Officer early on, which I gave them too big of a title. That’s something else you want to do. If you’ve got between one and 10 employees, don’t make somebody a Chief Officer until you’re at 20 or 30 or more employees typically. It’s just too high of a title because then they have nowhere to grow. But that being said, we hired somebody and I just didn’t take time. He was part of another organization I thought was great, so we just hired him right away and I should have tested him a little bit more before that.

We go through a more rigorous interview process and we make sure that people are passionate. We make sure people are grateful, we make sure people are skilled and that people are teachable. The biggest things that’ll get people fired or that won’t allow team members to be good team members and perform well. Number one is a spirit of entitlement. Unfortunately, this runs rampant with millennials today, is they think that you owe them something. No, that’s the opposite of gratefulness. You want to make sure people are willing to be coached and want to learn. They’re hungry to learn as well, put in their time. And so, again, those are some of those key characteristics. So one mistake I made, I didn’t take enough time in vetting and making sure I hired a five-star team player.

Number two is we didn’t use playbooks early enough in the business. It was sort of like, hey, I hire a writer and I would just let them write. What I’ve found over time is I spent three months, I spent first time myself creating the perfect article templates. If we were writing an article on turmeric, per se, I would make sure, “Okay, every article needs to have at least five medical studies and then it needs to start off with credibility. Then we need to let people know what they’re going to learn in the article. Then we need to cover turmeric nutrition facts, the top benefits, the history of use, the potential side effects, the dosage, exactly how to use it in your diet and recipes for turmeric.” So you see what I did there, I created an outline, an entire book of, a playbook of, “Hey, when you write any article on anything, here are the 30 questions you need to address.”

And so it was a formula on how to create a masterpiece, a formula on how to create the perfect article. A lot of times people hire team members and expect them to know. No, you need to coach, you need to train your team members. In fact, that’s what leaders are supposed to do. Leaders are not supposed to be doing a lot of technical things. Now listen, if you’re in the first year of your business, you got to do everything. And I wrote all of our articles early on, but then I got to the place where I was just the editor and then I got to the place where I was just the executive editor and then I got to the place where now I just, “Hey, read our articles and just make sure things are still going smoothly and well.” But, I think my biggest mistakes in business were not taking time and making sure I had the right person on the bus, not being quite strategic enough.

And the big thing is making sure that my team members were totally prepared and they had the standard of excellence, they had the playbook of how to go out there and perform well. And then the third thing would be constant leadership and coaching. We do something called scorecards, where I’ll sit down with my top team members once a month and say, “Hey, where do you rank yourself this month on your top three areas that you’re responsible for?” And they’d say, “Hey, I give myself an A here, but a C here and a D here.” And then my question always is, “How can I help you and serve you in achieving your goals? Is there anything you need from me? What can we do together?”

So my entire philosophy is also servant leadership. I’m there for my team saying, “What do you need from me? How can I serve you? How can I support you?” But there’s also a level of support, but also challenging. I’m challenging my team members saying, “Hey, let’s raise the standard. You know what I’m saying? “We are going to be better together. How can I support you in doing that?” But I’d say those are the biggest things I learned. I wish I was more, I wish I would have taken more time and being intentional and knowing how to hire a five star team player. I wish I would have been more intentional about having playbooks. And number three more intentional about leadership and developing a higher standard of excellence within my team.

Yeah, that makes so much sense. And the playbooks really resonates, because we see that across the entire space. You used the example of being able to scale the article writing, but whether it’s your supply chain, whether it’s your Ecommerce customer service questions, whether it’s the way that your ads look and feel. Time and time again, we’ve seen that having those playbooks is how you’re able to scale and how you’re able to also teach others when it comes time to be able to handle that type of demand. Now, we’re running up against the end of our time. I’ve got one last question for you. Bringing the best to your business or the business that you’re working with. A lot of that has to do with mindfulness and mental health. Any tips on your morning routine or your routines around mindfulness?

Every morning I do what I call my spiritual triathlon. Sometimes it’s 15 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour, but I spend time, number one, in gratefulness and praise. Number two, reading either my Bible or a personal growth book. Like lately I’ve been reading my Bible and a book by Simon Sinek called The Infinite Game, which is fantastic. The other book I read right before that was 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell. And then I’ll spend time in prayer or meditation and just sort of thinking through my day, visualizing what it needs to look like, how I need to be. 

An example, I might spend the first five minutes either, and again, everybody has different spiritual beliefs, for me, I’ll spend time praising God or saying, “Hey God, I’m just so grateful for my wife. I’m so grateful you blessing my business for these team members.” So I’ll spend time being grateful. And then number two, again, I’ll read something like, again, John Maxwell’s book 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. One of the chapters was on character and he talks about humility. And so then what I’ll do is I’ll, after I read through and chew on that principle or spend time reading, I’ll pick that one thing that was my biggest takeaway from that morning. And then I’ll pray on it and meditate and I’ll say, “Lord,” and I’ll say, “I know I need to be more humble. Forgive me for not being more humble.” And I’ll think through why I should be humble. And one is like all the people that have sowed into me and blessed me. Like I’ve had some, Vincent, I’ve had amazing mentors, that just humbles me knowing like I didn’t get to where I am because Josh Axe is great. No. I got to where I am because people invested in me, people sowed into me. People took their time and added value to me, whether it’s mentors or friends or my dad.

For me, I start off every day with this mindfulness of being grateful, reading and sowing into myself and spending some time in prayer and sort of meditating on one thing like humility. Man, I’ll tell you what, when I start my days, and here and there I’ll miss a day, I notice it. I’m like, “Maybe I’m not as kind to somebody as I should or I just, I just act out in a way that I don’t feel like is the best way.” Like having a short fuse in traffic or with a customer service representative. But if I really practice that spiritual triathlon every day, it’s been such a game changer for me in my life. Just my character growth over the past 10, 15 years, my leadership growth has been so big. So again, I just, to me, that morning time, that first 15 minutes to hour when I first wake up, it’s all about sowing and pouring into myself so then I can sow and pour into the world and serve other people, love other people well, my team, my wife, my family. But for me that’s been huge.

Thanks so much for sharing and thanks for being a mentor to so many of the folks who are listening to this show. Thanks so much again for joining us.

Be sure to visit Ancient Nutrition, along with DrAxe.com. Stay tuned for his upcoming book, The Collagen Diet, and subscribe to the Dr. Axe Show podcast! Dr. Josh Axe has been featured on the Dr. Oz show, in publications like Elite Daily and Men’s Health. He’s a leading force and thought leader within the health industry. Don’t forget to check out his Instagram. That’s Dr. Josh Axe. You can join 556,000 other people who are also following along.