Naveen Jain on the Human Ecosystem and Personalized Optimization of Your Gut Health


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Katie: Hello and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from and, that’s wellness with an E on the end. And I’m here today with my friend, Naveen, who is an intensely curious entrepreneur who has been taking on some big, audacious ideas to push humanity forward. He’s the author of the award-winning book “Moonshots: Creating a World of Abundance,” and his current moonshot adventures are Viome and Moon Express, which is a space company. But as a serial entrepreneur, he’s also founded InfoSpace, Intelius, and Talent Wise, among others.

And his current work is in Viome Life Sciences, which was founded in 2016 with a mission of making illness optional by predicting and preventing chronic disease through a deeper understanding of an individual’s biology at a molecular level. And it’s built on an AI-driven platform that analyzes the interaction between food, our microbiome, and our human selves to develop precision recommendations to prevent and reverse chronic disease. He’s also the vice-chairman of the board at Singularity University, and on the board of XPRIZE Foundation. He’s been the recipient of many things including Entrepreneur of the Year, Most Creative Person by Fast Company, Top 20 Entrepreneurs, and many more.

In this episode, we talk about the human ecosystem and personalized optimization of your gut health and your overall health. We talk about the reason the gut affects the entire body. Why it’s not just genetics from our parents but actually our ecosystem within our gut that controls our body. Why 70% of the immune system is in the gut. How microbiome balance begins at birth or even before. How 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, not the brain. What makes up the ecosystem of the gut. We get pretty granular on this one.

The difference between DNA and gene expression. How some foods can be good for some people and not others, and how to know which is best for you, but also, the universally harmful foods. Why there are some universality bad ones but not universally good ones. Why he doesn’t recommend harsh products that kill bacteria in the mouth or in the gut. The real reason it’s important to chew your food really well before swallowing, and so much more. Lot’s of practical info in this episode. Also, lots of links to learn more in the show notes at, so check those out. But without further ado, let’s join Naveen Jain. Naveen, welcome back.

Naveen: Well, Katie, so good to see you finally after a long, long time.

Katie: I’m so excited we get to have a conversation and get to record it and share it today, and we’re gonna talk a lot about gut health and even beyond gut health, how this affects the health of the whole body. Before we do, though, I would say you’re the only person I know in real life who has a Moon rock collection. And so, I would love for you to just talk about this because I think you’re my only hobbyist Moon rock collector.

Naveen: Well, I think, Katie, you know, to me, the Moon is symbolic. It is symbolic of what humanity is capable of doing. So, to me, going to the Moon is a way of expressing that there is nothing that’s impossible for us to do. Even though it’s called “Moonshots” that people thought was difficult, if not impossible to do and having, you know, now to be able to go to the Moon and to me, the collection of space rocks actually was just simply a hobby of able to hold something in your hand. That may be even before the birth of our planet. And it gives you some idea of how fragile we are that if we don’t take care of ourselves, our planet, we as humanity may not survive. As a species, we may not survive.

So, you know, idea of when someone says, “I am really worried about our planet,” ask the planet and planet will tell you, “Don’t you worry about me because we…” Planet will do just fine but human species may not survive. Very similar to dinosaurs. And to me, having a Moon rock simply reminds me that we all are connected together. When something outside us goes wrong, we as internal ecosystem will also be impacted, right. And that’s coming down to, you know, if you look at what’s above, so below is really what’s outside the ecosystem and the universe impacts us, and our ecosystem inside us impacts the universe.

Katie: I love that you said it like that because I interviewed my oldest son on this podcast a couple hundred episodes ago when he launched a cookbook and you know him as well. And I asked him that question. You know, your generation’s gonna face a lot in the environmental and climate stuff. And, I raised this question and he goes, “Well, mom, you’re actually asking the wrong question because the…”

Naveen: Oh, I love it, I love it.

Katie: He said, “The planet is a self-correcting organism. It’s gonna heal itself. It’s just a question of whether we get to stay here when it does. And we need to be asking how we can be more synergistic within an environment that is bigger than us.”

Naveen: That is the perfect answer. That is exactly how I would see it that…you know, when people say, “Aren’t you worried about the planet?” I say, “That’s not the question you should be asking.” It’s, “Are we worried about the human species?” That’s what we should be asking.

Katie: Which is a perfect segue because that is something that you are intimately involved with and I would say not worried about but working to solve. My listeners are pretty health savvy and understand or at least have a passing understanding that gut health impacts the whole entire body. But I feel like this concept is…well, we’ve known aspects of it for a long time. We’re seeing so much more research about it right now. And we’re…thanks to companies like Viome, we have many more tangible tools to actually understand and start to do something about that. But to start broad, kind of give us an overview of what we mean by the health of the gut affects the health of the whole body.

Naveen: So, well, first of all, you know, let’s just start from the beginning. We as human beings are not simply a product of the DNA from our mom and dad. What we are is a symbiotic ecosystem, and in that ecosystem, 99% of all the genes that are actually expressed in our human body are not our own. They come from these microbes that are in our mouth, in our gut, all over us. So, imagine…I mean, there’s literally…if we look at the human beings as such in terms of all the genes that are expressed that makes us who we are, they are not humans. They are mostly microbial. We’re living in their world. They don’t live in our world, right.

So, when we understand that, you know, even though you could argue that they are the puppet masters and we are simply the host or puppet for their benefit, and you could argue someday that maybe they actually created us to spread them around, maybe they created us so they can rule the world, right, but in all honesty, we coevolved together. In coevolution what happens is we feed them and we give them a nice and warm and comfortable place to stay. In turn, they feed us the nutrients that our body needs to actually be healthy, right. So, imagine from the time a baby is born, and I think this is something that most people don’t realize, that in the first couple of days of mother’s breast milk is full of oligosaccharides. And that cannot be digested by the human body. That is there only for the microbes in the gut to be able to convert into nutrients. That means it is to create the ecosystem inside us.

Now imagine what nature is telling us, that we just created a offspring and the best way to keep this offspring healthy is not to feed it but to feed them who are going to keep the offspring healthy. And as the baby goes through the birth canal, this is the first exposure the baby gets to the whole world of microbiome. It gets…completely inhales the microbiome as the baby’s going through birth canal. And unfortunately, some of the mothers for obvious reasons end up getting a C-section. They actually…the babies are not going through the same…they are exposed to skin microbiome rather through the birth canal, the microbiome that they would get through the birth canal. And that is a fundamentally…the baby, when it’s born, is actually…the nature has created in a way that the microbes get introduced into the baby at the time of the birth and that actually now becomes a coevolution process. And the mother’s breast milk starts to feed these microbes to create this ecosystem.

And as the gut microbiome starts to get healthy, it starts to train our immune system. And I think this is the fundamental part that people need to understand. Seventy percent of our immune system is along our gut lining. In fact, all the research shows that how gut microbiome is constantly training our immune system what’s a friend and what’s a foe, right. So, in some sense, if you look at the human body, there is a tube that goes through us. There is a top of the tube in your mouth and then there’s the bottom of the tube, and then you start to look at all along the lines there is a massive amount of microbial existence there. And they in fact are constantly interacting with our immune system and the immune system is now understanding when there is actually a pathogen that’s coming through the food or the pathogen that’s coming through the outside world, how to react to it. And these microbes are the first signal that tells the immune systems, “This is not good. Go do something about it, right.”

And I think to me, that symbiotic relationship breaks down when there is a dysbiosis in the gut. So, I think as your son pointed out, not just the planet but even the human body is designed to heal itself. The human body is designed to be in homeostasis. And any time…and whether we cut our skin or whether there is some type of pathogen or we get some type of a disease, it normally is designed to heal itself if our body is in balance. So, when there are gut microbial activities and the human host are constantly in sync and healthy and our immune system is healthy, then our body will actually heal itself. When there is a dysbiosis or imbalance of the gut microbiome, this is where the unease happens. When your body is not at ease, you get disease which we call disease.

Katie: Yeah, so many important points you just said to unpack. And I think the first being that we really are more bacterial than human and you…here you said you are what you eat but it goes so far beyond that. It’s not even you are what you eat or even you are what you eat-eat, but what your gut bacteria eats and how it grows. And I love that you brought up the birth canal thing because I am a doula and I’ve actually helped in several C-section births with feeding the baby, because like you said, if you don’t…the baby is naturally meant to seed their gut through the birth canal. And if that doesn’t happen, like you said, they’re seeding to the hospital room, to skin, to potentially disinfectants that are in that room, all kinds of things. And we know that this gut bacteria at birth, more and more we learn, sets you up for your whole life. But also, the good news is…and I know that Viome does a lot of research on this. All is not lost if you don’t get a perfect start. We now have the ability to kind of get a snapshot and look in the gut in a really unique way and then optimize to improve someone’s health going forward.

And also, like you said, the body’s natural state is health. It’s not often that we need to do anything drastic. We need to get out of our own way and just remove the things that are keeping the body from being healthy or maybe sometimes give it little extra nutrients to help get there. Talk a little bit about the science of Viome and what we’re testing because this technology didn’t even exist a couple decades ago, and now we have such amazing data from this.

Naveen: Well, it’s very interesting is this idea of, you know…if you go back and look at couple of decades ago, it was actually the bacteria and all these organisms were considered as an enemy of the human body. That is the minute you see them, your job is to kill them as quickly as possible because they can’t possibly be there for our good, right. And as we started to learn more about the human body, we realized that most of these organisms are actually commensal. They are supposed to be there and they in fact…when we feed them things like, you know…in olden days, when we were living in the savannas of Africa, we’ll pull out a leaf or we’ll pull out the root and eat it. That’s full of fiber. Those fibers are actually what our gut microbes eat, and those gut microbes, by eating these fibers, actually turn them into short chain fatty acids. Things like butyric, things like acetate, these were all the nutrients that our body needed.

In fact, if you start to think about it, 90% of all the serotonin is actually produced in our gut, not in our brain. So, if you really think about all the things that are being done in the gut and how what happens in the gut doesn’t simply stay in the gut, it actually impacts the whole body including our brain to coming back to it, Katie, that you pointed out. What happens in our gut impacts our mood. So, whether it’s a depression or anxiety or, you know, you can call them any names you want, you know, many of these things including autism is now connected directly into the gut microbiome. In fact, they have done now the research where they did simply a microbial transplant called a fecal transplant and they were able to in fact show that kids with autism, their autistic symptoms went down by 50% even after two years just by simply doing the microbial transplant. They were able to show when you took a person that has a depression a microbial transplant or anxiety, it can be transferred simply by transferring the microbiome into another species. And they’ve done them in mice and they’ve done that in fact in humans, and obviously, it was done by mistake but that’s actually how it happened.

In fact, what’s really interesting is addiction. And they’ve shown the same thing. They took…there were 17 people on the research that were completely addicted to alcohol. And those people, they gave them a fecal transplant from people who actually had no addiction. And these people’s addiction went away. Now imagine that, that our gut microbiome are controlling our brain in terms of what to do. That’s what the addiction is, right. And I think that’s really phenomenal.

And now what we’re learning is every type of cancer…in fact what they have now looked at is every single solid tumor has microbes inside that tumor. Think about that a second, the microbes are inside the tumor. And what we found most fascinating was there is microbial peptides being displayed on the surface of the tumor. Now, why would a tumor that’s an organism wanting to survive would ever display a microbial peptide unless it is there to fool our immune system into thinking this is self and protects the tumor against the immune system attacking, right?

Now, imagine what…another thing that’s most interesting I found was when you do immunotherapy, it works about one-third of the time. And the people where the immunotherapy does not work, in the 70% of the people that immunotherapy did not work, they simply were able to do a change in their gut microbiome and the same immunotherapy started working. So, our gut microbiome is not only there to keep us healthy from all the diseases today we call the different names. Heart diseases, it is coming from our gut microbes actually producing things like trimethylamine or TMA. TMA gets absorbed in the blood and our liver converts them into TMAO, trimethylamine oxide. In fact, we can now look at things like LDL production which is a bad cholesterol production and see how microbial activities and microbial metabolites actually change the LDL production. You’re able to look at how…what’s happening in your gut, how are we changing the inflammatory markers in our host. So, we are able to measure the gut activity and the human host activity, all their cytokines. So, we are looking at every interleukins, we are looking at all of the inflammatory markers to see how they are changing with the gut microbial activity.

And so, anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that you mentioned something about these bacteria, and I just want people to know the microorganisms are not just bacteria. They are predominantly bacteria but they also consist of yeast, viruses and even the RNA viruses or fungus or mold. All of these things are actually the whole ecosystem and the biggest part in fact if you noticed almost 10 to 1 if not more is actually phages. And phages are the viruses that infect the bacteria. And if you look at any nature whether you’re looking in the swamp or you’re looking at the gut microbiome, in fact there are 10 times more phages than the bacteria alone. And that means these viruses that infect bacteria are modifying the bacterial…the organism, the functions of these bacteria that in fact changes how these bacteria behave in terms of what functions they are performing.

So again, what’s really interesting is by looking at what organisms are there, will never tell you what is going on in your body. In fact, their functions are what makes the difference. That means what they are producing can…is really the only thing that matters what these gut microbes are producing, not who they are. And I think, Katie, you probably know that a lot of the people like Akkermansia muciniphila. Some of the companies are selling them as a probiotic without realizing that Akkermansia can be good for some people and in fact it is the number one reason for causing multiple sclerosis, and it has also been directly linked to Alzheimer’s, right. So now think about it. The same organism can do something good for one person and can do something really bad in another person. So, taking something blindly, taking any supplement, any probiotic, any prebiotic blindly is actually not good for you because your body is completely different than other person’s body. The same organism or same probiotic can be good for someone and could be harmful for another person. And that’s the biggest learning we have had in the last six years.

Katie: Yeah, I love that you brought up the fecal microbiota transfer as well. I’ve seen some of the science on this and… you know, caveat, this is not something to attempt at home but it’s pretty amazing what they’re accomplishing in labs with some really targeted and very specific ways of doing that. And I feel like in a sense, this is also something you can accomplish without having to go to that extreme if you know what you’re working with. And for the last two years, I’ve been saying, you know, early on in health and wellness, I would find out information, read studies and be so excited and write about it, and I’ve realized more and more over the last 15 years everything is so personalized and so individualized. And so now when people ask me like, “What exactly did you do to reverse your Hashimoto’s?” I say, “You know, I can tell you what I did but it’s not gonna work the same for you. It can be an idea with the starting point but it’s not gonna be your blueprint. Each of our blueprints is gonna be very, very different.”

Which is why I love now more and more access to these at-home testing whether it be things like Viome, even now blood testing available at home, genetic testing just so we can have more information and access. And I’ve said so many times on here we are each our own primary healthcare provider. At the end of the day, it’s great to work with doctors but we are each our own primary healthcare provider. And I feel like having tools in our pocket that let us be more effective at that can really, really make a difference. So, let’s talk a little bit more about the personalization aspect of this because I also am curious…you know, I know you said everything is so different. What’s good for one person might be not for another. Are there any things that are kind of universally bad that you’re finding in Viome? Like, I would put maybe processed vegetable oils on the do not cross list, but I’m curious what you’re seeing in the data.

Naveen: Yeah. So first of all, it’s really interesting. I think you phrased it correctly. There is no such thing as universal healthy food. And that means there is no such thing that’s good for everyone. That means the same food can be good for you or bad for someone. However, there are some universal unhealthy things that you can know. So, there is no universal healthy thing but there are universally unhealthy things. Sugar is one of those unhealthy things. There is no one who says, “The sugar is good for me, right.” So that’s actually having a fried, you know, fried food. So, all fried stuff, it’s just bad for everyone. Eating a lot of sugar, it’s just bad for everyone. However, what we find most interesting is that analyzing the human body and analyzing based on what is going on and what is dynamically changing in your body…and I think a lot of the people who are listening to it, I want people to understand the difference between a DNA which is static. So when people do their DNA test, it tells you what is inherently there in your body. It doesn’t tell you what is actually going on in your body. That means…if, Katie, you allow me, I’m gonna explain the DNA because I think to me a lot of people get very confused about what DNA is.

So, every part of our body is identical DNA. That means you look at my hair, you look at my eyes, you look at my teeth, you look at my nails, you look at my finger, it’s exactly the same DNA. Then why is it we don’t have the eyes growing on my fingers and the nails growing on my head? Same DNA. And the answer is there’s…when some genes are overexpressed, some genes are under expressed, the same DNA can become eye, same DNA can become nail, same DNA can become skin, same DNA can become heart cells or neurons or things like that, right. So, point is DNA is like an alphabet and the story you are writing is actually what is being expressed. It’s called RNA. So, RNA tells you the story that’s being written for you right now and DNA tells you every possible thing that can happen. And that’s one thing.

So, what we do at Viome, Katie, is we look at your gene expression and what gene expression tells us is what story your gut microbes are writing. What story your human host is writing. And now I’m gonna come back and tell you…some news to share with you towards the end. Once we understand all that’s going on, we are able to then tell you, “Hey, don’t eat broccoli or cabbage because your sulfide production in your gut is too high and the sulfide need sulfates to produce sulfide and the broccoli and cabbage are very high in sulfate so you should cut it down, right.”

We can tell you that…a lot of people will tell you go take vitamin B3. But vitamin B3’s actually not good for you when you have high uric acid production. So don’t take vitamin B3 if you have high uric acid production. Similarly, everyone will tell you, “Hey, take curcumin and turmeric. It’s really good anti-inflammatory.” It is. However, when your bile acid production is very high, you don’t want to take curcumin because it’s going to convert into bile salt that’s gonna cause more inflammation. A lot of people think somehow taking NAD or NR, and NMN which is precursor to NAD is actually increase your longevity. It is true for some people it may do that, but for others it actually will harm you when you have high cellular senescence, or when you have high inflammatory activity. You don’t want to be taking additional NAD because that’s gonna increase the mitochondrial biogenesis that’s going to increase more free radicals, gonna increase high cellular senescence, right.

So, the idea really is that you have to learn what is happening before you treat your body like a black box. And I think you’ve said it right, that we are just…we are the CEO of our own health. We are the ones who need to know what is happening in our body because our primary care doctor…I don’t know about you, Katie. When I go to my primary care doctor, by the time I start speaking, he’s already writing the prescription. I mean, literally, the word he says… “Oh, did you say coughing? Here it is. Did you say this? Give me the ill, I’ll give you the pill.” And that’s all they’re simply doing. They don’t need to…they don’t care to understand what is causing that to happen in my body. Like, you had Hashimoto, or if you had any type of an autoimmune disease, the first thing they tell you is just take the immune suppression drugs and suppress the symptom. Not worry about what is causing it, and that is a fundamental problem that our healthcare system has is that our medical industrial complex, everyone makes money when we are sick and no one makes money when we are healthy. And so, we decided to change that. In my world of the future, Katie, we believe that…I think just like you just said, the future of healthcare is going to be delivered at home, not at the hospitals.

And the medicines of the future are gonna come from a farm, not a pharmacy. And that is going to be the biggest change you’ll start to see us taking control of our own health. And I think COVID has been one of the…I would say if you look back at COVID 10 years from now, it will be the biggest inflection point that happened in humanity’s perception of that we as individuals have control our own actions and our actions have health consequences.

Katie: Absolutely. I think so many good silver linings and teaching moments in COVID and people spent more time at home and with their families cooking dinner at home. There were a lot of great outcomes, as hard as it was for many people. I think we can focus on those positives. And I love your explanation of DNA and how it goes beyond just your genetics. It’s about how they’re expressed and how that’s controlled in the gut. And I’d love to go a little bit deeper about Viome because I know I talked to you years ago about this and you guys have made some big advances since then. So, talk about kind of the snapshot of what Viome is testing and then how people are making changes based on that and what they’re seeing.

Naveen: Yes. So obviously, Katie, a couple of years ago we did a gut intelligence chart that simply measured your gut health. And then we realized that that was really good but it didn’t tell us how those gut changes were impacting us and the human body. And so, we now launched…about two years ago during COVID actually, we launched our health intelligence test that measures your blood and it measures your stool, and by doing the finger prick blood, so you don’t have to go to a lab. It’s a simple finger prick blood, couple of drops of your blood. And your starch of your stool. We are able to now look at both your gut health and your human host and able to now tell you what is your biological age. And that tells you not only, you know, how well or how poorly your body is aging compared to your chronological age.

So, to give you an idea, I am now gonna be 63 in September and my biological age is down to 50. And that tells you that literally that my body is performing at the level when I was 50. And I feel it. I run up the stairs two stairs at a time and I have more energy than in fact I had when I was 50. And that simply tells you what your biological age is. Then we give you immune health. That means how well are you protected against if you were to catch flu or cold or any type of pathogen, how well your body is able to protect itself? And that’s your immune health. Your cellular health. That tells you how well your cells are able to undergo the things that are going on in the human body. Mitochondrial health, that’s your energy factory. How well the mitochondrial health is performing because if it’s not, you get brain fog, you feel fatigued, you feel tired. We give you obviously your gut health.

And now this is something new that we’re gonna be launching in June and we’re launching a new product called full body intelligence. And for the first time, we’re gonna be analyzing all the way from top of your tube, your saliva, your stool and blood, all three at the same time. And by looking at that, we’re also gonna be able to provide you some additional insights such as your heart and metabolic health. We’re gonna be giving you your brain and cognitive health. We’re gonna be able to show you your oral health such as your gum health, your teeth health and all the gum, you know…leaky gum instead of just leaky gut. We’ll be able to show you how well your boundaries of your gums are performing so that microbes are not going into your blood.

And other thing we do now which we did not do until about a year ago is when you do a test, not only you get your deep insight what’s happening in your body and not just tell you here are the foods that are good for you and here is why. Here are the foods you should avoid and why. We used to tell you here are the supplements you should take. Now we go beyond that, Katie. We are able to tell you you only need 22 milligram of berberine every day. You need 17 milligram of elderberry every day. You need 79 milligram amylase every day. And we go through every vitamin, minerals, herbs, food extracts, digestive enzymes, amino acids, probiotics, prebiotics, and we literally make those for you on demand.

There is no premade stuff. Think of it like a compounding pharmacy. There are robotics compounding pharmacy. It says, these capsules are being made for Katie. Go to bin number 17, get 17 milligram of elderberry. Go to bin number 29, get 27 milligram of berberine. And we literally take all the strawberry extract here, put this thing here. And by the way, once we get the powder, we make the capsules and ship them off to you every month. And as your body changes, we change your supplements at the same time. So, every time you retest, we say, “Oh, you don’t need amylase anymore. What you really need is butyrate now,” right. And we literally are able to adjust your…as your body is changing, we adapt the nutrition that your body needs. And those are the new things that I’m super excited about.

Other things that I’m really, really excited about…and we have not talked to anyone yet about it. We’re gonna be launching in June also our cancer detect. And this is gonna…first time as a consumer you’ll be able to spit in a tube and with 95% specificity and 90% sensitivity, we’ll be able to tell you if you have any oral cancer or throat cancer. And then we’ll be able to actually connect you with a doctor to be able to do something about it. So, if you are above…over 50 years old or have any history of smoking, vaping, chewing tobacco, you’ll be able to actually at home do a test and actually know that you’re not at a risk of developing a cancer right now. Or you’re developing a cancer right now.

Katie: Yeah. This is so cutting edge and I think just to highlight what you said, this is really fascinating news of basically machine learning and AI and this adaptive technology. And because you’ve now tested thousands and thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of people, then the algorithm has access to all this information so it can continue to get more and more specialized and direct with the recommendations and learn your own body over time. So, you’re getting this kind of ongoing, accurate picture which I think is so fascinating.

Naveen: Yeah. So, Katie, we have analyzed over 350,000 samples already. And that has given us this…you know, the part of being the…part of that Viome ecosystem is every single person who joins benefit from the other 350,000 samples that we have analyzed and they contribute to the ecosystem, and our AI and machine learning is constantly getting better. And for every single person who joins benefit themselves and benefits the humanity at the same time because now the more we learn, the better recommendations we can make for everyone. So, before we just only could look at your stool. Now we look at stool plus blood. Now it’s stool plus blood plus saliva. And we’re gonna launch…the next thing will be with urine. And then we’re gonna start to look at other biomarkers in your body. So, our recommendations get more and more precise as we learn more and more about the human body. And our real hope is, you know, in my lifetime we’ll be able to understand what causes the onset of a chronic disease and what causes them to progress and to be able to prevent them from happening in the first place, to diagnose them early when they actually do happen, and to come up with a cure for these diseases. Not simply manage them but to cure them once for all for each individual. And that’s going to be the ultimate goal of our life.

Katie: And I love that you brought up the interaction of all the different microbiomes within the body as well and how you’re looking at all of these, because some of my early research was in oral health and learning for instance that strep mutants and the bacteria that cause gingivitis don’t both exist at the same time. And this is because we have an oral microbiome. And if it gets out of balance in one direction or the other, you’re gonna end up with those problems. But the answer is not sterilizing your mouth and killing all bacteria just like we wouldn’t want to in the gut. It’s getting a healthy oral microbiome that has that ecosystem that it needs. Same thing with the gut. And like you said, you’re looking at these throughout the whole body. I know your daughter’s also doing some fascinating research with the vaginal microbiome and I’m excited to chat with her about that.

But I think, like we talked about in the beginning, since our body is more bacterial than human, the more we understand about these interactions, the more kind of intricate data we can get to make improvements over time and of course there would be a cancer connection here. You know, I’ve heard it said that cancer is a metabolic disease in some part. And this is a way of…because even within an individual, if you’re looking at a metabolic disease, you’re looking at, “Okay, we need to get blood sugar in check. We need to get blood pressure in check. We need to get obesity measures in check.” But the way to do that’s gonna be different for every single person.

Naveen: I think it’s a metabolic and inflammatory disease. So, I mean, it’s caused…chronic inflammation is a root cause of chronic diseases. However, what causes the inflammation in our body is different for each individual. So even though it is the inflammation that may be at the root cause but the underlying reasons for that inflammation are very, very different. And as you mentioned, our daughter is, you know…has this company called Evvy, E-V-V-Y, which looks at the vaginal microbiome. And to me, what she’s doing is so phenomenal and especially your audience, every single woman should do that because that is really…is going to be…you know, lots of women suffer through many of the diseases that we as men would never understand. And that to some extent is, you know, largely reproductive organ and many of the times the later research shows that vaginal microbiome is involved in preterm birth, in the health of the baby and all the things that you mentioned as the baby goes through the birth canal. All the things that come out in fact are contributory from the vaginal microbiome. So, my high recommendation…again, I’m biased. I think every woman should be doing the Evvy test, right.

Now, coming back to the things you mentioned that, you know, human health is complex but once we understand biochemical level what is going on, that’s the reason instead of looking at organisms and instead of looking at DNA, we focused on the gene expression or RNA. We focused on what microbes are producing. Looking at the whole body. And I think, Katie, I wanna point out that the products that you build for oral health are some of the best products because, to me, what is the biggest gamechanger is people thought the organisms were your enemy. So, they have this Listerine. Kills 99% of all the bacteria in your mouth. For heaven’s sake, don’t do that. When you kill the ecosystem in your mouth, it actually destroys the whole digestive tract. And I wanna just emphasize, you know, to people when our mothers told us to chew our food, she didn’t ask us to chew the food because they thought the food was too big to go down our esophagus, right. It was actually was when you chew your food, you’re allowing the oral microbiome in your saliva to actually predigest the food, and by predigesting the food…in addition to predigesting, it also sends the signal to the gut and to the body about what is coming down. So, when it tastes sweet, it starts to release the signal for pancreas to release the insulin, because it knows the sweet stuff is coming down.

So, the main thing is that we need to allow the oral microbiome to predigest the feed so your small intestine can now absorb the nutrients that are already predigested. So, when you are…so two things you need to think about here. And one is when you are stressed and you are eating your food, it does not get properly digested and here is why. When you are stressed, you are in a fight or flight response. And the number one thing that happens when you’re in fight or flight response is your digestive system shuts down. Remember why it was designed. When you’re running away from a tiger, at that time, the body knew there is no point worrying about digesting your food because either you’re gonna be lunch for someone else or you’re going to survive. And if you became lunch for someone else, it didn’t matter. And if you survive, guess what? The stress went down and you moved from sympathetic mode to parasympathetic mode and you could digest your food.

When you come from work and you are stressed, what do we tell people? Before you eat, do the gratitude. Why is that? It’s because you want to bring your body from sympathetic mode into parasympathetic mode. Get rid of fight or flight response. By taking the deep breath, by doing the gratitude, what you are doing is actually allowing your body to be able to be ready to digest the food. Then when you chew your food, you’re allowing your saliva and oral microbiome to actually predigest your food. And these are simple techniques we learned in the ancient culture but we now know scientifically why did they say that, right. We tell…like, Katie, you may not know that my mom and dad and our religion, they don’t eat after sunset. And I always wonder why would that be. And it turns out because you need to have three or four hours of break after you eat food before you go to sleep. So, they made that as a religion do not eat after sunset so because people will get three, four hours of digestion. So, in fact telling that, you know…and that to me was really the thing that we learned as part of our culture. Actually, turns out we’re very scientific.

And I wanna come back to the oral products. I think people need to be really thinking about oral microbiome health and using the actual oral toothpaste, oral things that…you know, probiotics. And the products, some of the products that you have, Katie, are designed to enhance your oral health and oral microbial activities or oral microbial ecosystem in your mouth. And I think everyone who’s listening to it to start pay attention because that is the number one. Your mouth actually is the beginning of your digestive tract. It is not simply an opening to your digestive tract. It is the path of the digestive tract where the digestion happens.

Katie: I absolutely agree. I think very multifaceted but start with the mouth is so important. And I love a couple of the things you just mentioned about why we don’t digest food if we’re stressed and we know, of course, that Americans live in a chronic state of stress often. And one thing I’ve become fond of…you know, there’s a reason many cultures also pray or meditate right before eating, which also helps the body get into parasympathetic or you can simply do breathing exercises. Do some box breathing to calm your nervous system. I love that your family naturally from a religious perspective stopped eating at sunset. I’ve learned in my own life that I do great when I time restricted eat and for a long time I would wait and not eat till noon and then eat later in the day. And I noticed when I shifted that to eating and stopping by sunset, I feel so much better and it goes to that point you mentioned about letting your body finish digesting before you sleep so that when you’re sleeping, you can be healing and your body can get into autophagy and you can allocate resources to all the natural processes the body has built in to keep us healthy.

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And I also wanna piggyback on what you said about the same reason we don’t wanna kill our oral microbiome is the same reason we don’t wanna kill our gut bacteria as well but I still see people kind of hopping on the bandwagon of these really harsh cleanses or of course people sometimes take antibiotics for reasons whether they need to or not. And those can both have a pretty harsh impact on the gut. And so, I’d love to talk about it. Maybe if someone knows they’ve been on antibiotics before or they know they have a gut issue related to really kind of killing some of those good bacteria. Obviously, Viome helps with this but kind of, like, what can be done? How can we help fix it?

Naveen: So, first thing is, you know, before you go start taking a lot of things is to understand, what is the state of your gut bacteria? So do a Viome test, understand where it stands. And then you start to look at what you…you know, we tell you what are the foods you should eat. And again, taking a lot of the fermented food especially when you’re trying to repopulate or rebootilate your gut microbiome, really the things should be diversification. So instead of just taking one type of probiotics, you should be taking kombucha, the kimchi, the…you know, all the fermented foods you can possibly get your hands on. So, whether it’s a yogurt or, you know, at least oat milk yogurt if you can. I mean, I’m a big fan that I think dairy…in fact for a lot of the people, dairy is the big problem. Now I’m not saying it’s for everyone but a lot of the people, dairy could be a big problem. And the mammalian products actually could be a big problem for some people and not for others.

So, I’m not the person who is preaching veganism here at all. What I’m saying is know what is good for you. There are a lot of people who can eat red meat for all of their life and live to be 100, and the reason for that is red meat contains obviously as you all know, choline and carnitine that can get converted by our gut microbiome into things like TMA. And I mentioned TMA is the one that gets absorbed in the blood, causes the TMAO which causes the heart disease. So, it’s not the red meat that causes the heart disease. It is the byproduct of how the red meat is digested in some people that produce TMA. So, if your TMA production is low, you should eat red meat if you want to because it’s not gonna harm you. And that’s really the point is to understand, don’t simply ban foods and whole category of food.

Another thing that we learned…we published a paper having analyzed over 100,000 people at that time on aging. And what we found, Katie, that you may find really fascinating is people who were on these fad diets like, you know, keto diet or paleo diet were the worst offender of their biological age. The people who were on keto diet in fact were three to five years older than their chronological age and the same is true for paleo diet. It turns out that people who are on balanced diet, that means they were eating their carbs but not a lot but they were eating their normal carbs, they were eating their protein, they were eating their fat and they were eating the protein, they were much more balanced, were actually better off biologically than cutting out the whole nutrient group completely.

Katie: That makes sense, that we need the variety. And I’ve learned more and more as well that I think the simplistic version we all learned, hopefully learned in school was about just kind of calories in, calories out. And I’ve heard it said, you know, our body’s not a bank account. It’s a chemistry lab. And so, I now try to eat for maximal micronutrient and nutrient density in food, not just hitting or not hitting target calorie ratios because it’s so much more diverse and important than that.

And what’s next for Viome? I’m curious because I know you’re constantly doing research here, and like you said, your goal is to tackle chronic disease in its entirety. So, what’s in the pipeline for you guys?

Naveen: Actually, I mentioned that next test we are launching in June is a full body intelligence. We’re launching a cancer detect test. And we’re making our supplements and probiotics more and more precise for every individual since we make it for each individual. We are, you know, trying to do additional tests now and our goal is to launch in the next six months another test which is gonna be more, like, a proteomics test because the things we cannot see in the blood because they are produced somewhere else. So, can we measure things, you know, the proteins for a Hashimoto disease? Can we measure things like lipopolysaccharide binding protein that can predict if you have a leaky gut by looking at LBP, by looking at CRP which actually is done in the liver? So, we’re going to be able to actually measure additional things in addition to just the ones that we are measuring, and the more information we can learn, the better recommendations we make. So, our hope is to continue to launch these tests that give us better and better insights and that means we can make more and more precise recommendation for each individual.

Ultimate goal really is to understand…as you say, the human body is a chemistry lab. We have basically biochemical reactors in our body. Your body is a biochemical reactor. And that is the thing people need to understand that the gene expression tells you what biochemistry is going on in the body. And that’s a reason…and in fact, Viome is the only company that does look at the gene expression because there is no other company that has this technology. And I think people who have listened to your earlier podcast, we talked about, this particular technology came out of Los Alamos National Lab where they had the laboratory for biodefense project. And that’s the reason no one else can do it because it took 10 years and multibillion dollars’ worth of resources to develop this technology. Unfortunately, we were very fortunate to be able to get the license to be able to use this technology to help the humanity get better. And if our mission was simply to make money, we would not have been able to license this technology, right.

So, the fact today we are simply focused on making every single person be better. You know, our mission on day one was what if we could understand the human biology at a molecular level so we can prevent, diagnose early and cure these chronic diseases including cancer and aging? And I think a lot of the people who have heard you and I talk in the past, you know that I lost my dad to cancer and that was one of the biggest motivator for me because if I had started this company half a decade before I did, I could have potentially saved my dad. And, you know, having watched him go through that pain or suffering through cancer I realized that even though I couldn’t save him, I could dedicate my life to saving everyone else. And that will be my way of letting him know that, you know, I am so proud of what he…how he raised us as a child and giving us everything we have so we are able to save everyone else’s loved ones whether it is from heart disease or diabetes or depression, anxiety or cancer.

And my hope really is that in our lifetime we will absolutely eradicate cancer from the human body. And if I were to make a prediction today, I will tell you within a decade I think we will get rid of cancer from the human body.

Katie: That’s a big claim and I hope we are on track for that as well. I’ve lost two extended family members in the last couple of months alone to cancer as well as some of my grandparents. And it’s no secret that those are all still very much on the rise right now and I’m sure the chronic stress of the last couple of years is not helping that problem. So, I’m grateful that there are resources like you, and I have done Viome. I’m doing an updated one right now so I can report back with my results on that. But I also am gonna make sure…I know you’ve offered a discount code for the Viome testing. So that link will be in the show notes for you guys listening at You can find the discount code and the link directly to it there. And to make sure I respect your time, there’s a couple last questions I would love to ask you. The first being if there is a book or a number of books that have profoundly influenced your life. And if so, what they are and why?

Naveen: Yeah, so the book that really influenced me…there is a book by Clayton Christensen, you know. I love the man and I saw him before he died. The book he wrote, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” And to me it was such a profound book which tells you that you have to be 100% honest. You cannot be 99% honest because once you take a step down of this honesty, it’s a slippery slope and there is no stopping it. Once you make an exception to something, there’s just no going back but there’ll always be another reason to make an exception. And so, you have to focus yourself to never, ever compromise on your principles that you stand for. And that was just absolutely a marvelous book I read.

You know, the book that also…I mean, obviously I wrote a book called “Moonshots” that’s really about creating a mindset of abundance rather than a mindset of scarcity. And the fundamental belief that I have is that there is nothing that humans are not capable of doing if we actually get our mindset to believe we can. So, any time when someone says, “I can or I can’t,” it is true because it is up to them to decide whether they can or they can’t. That once you believe something is impossible, it becomes impossible for you and no one else. And so, you are completely in control. The only thing you can’t do is what you can’t imagine. Everything else is possible.

Katie: I love that. I know you and I both raise our kids with that mindset and yours are older and doing amazing things out in the world already and mine are in the beginning stages of that. And lastly, what parting advice would you like to leave with the audience today? Could be related to something we’ve talked about or entirely unrelated.

Naveen: I would say dream so big that people think you’re crazy. That means never let someone tell you that you can’t do it. Fall in love with yourself because the day you fall in love with yourself is the day the world will fall in love with you. Loving yourself is not about being self-conceited. Loving yourself is about not looking for someone else’s approval to do the things that mean a lot to you. Follow your heart, follow your gut, listen to your gut and follow what it tells you. Find a purpose in life. Once you find a purpose in life, you will never ever think it’s work. I get up every day at 4 a.m., and that’s my advice to everyone. Whenever you get up in the morning, if you’re not jumping out of the bed, you should quit what you are doing because that’s not your calling, because when you find your calling, you will not be lying down in the bed. You jump out of the bed with joy wanting to solve that problem.

And, Katie, I just want to reiterate, I met your kids and I know I remember the oldest one and I gave him the Moon rock at that time. I’m telling you your kids are going to actually move this humanity forward. You are raising these children with the mindset that everything they want to do, they can. And every mother who’s listening to it just should know that parenting is actually very counterintuitive. And, Katie, you and I have talked about it a lot of times. Like, when we raise our children, we tell them, “Our love for you is unconditional but our approval is not.” And what that means is simply is that we’ll always love you, we’ll always be there for you, but I’m not gonna tell you I’m proud of you unless you do things that make us proud of you. And that is really the thing about telling the children that their success will never be measured by how much money they have in the bank. It will be measured by how many lives they improve. And the humility is a sign of success because if you still have iota of arrogance left in you, that means you’re still trying to prove something to yourself or someone else. And humility tells you no longer have to do that, right. And that is a true sign of success. And all I can say is I’m so proud of every one of your children, Katie. And I cannot wait for them to grow up and actually do things that will make our children’s and grandchildren’s life better.

Katie: Oh, thank you so much for saying that. People who don’t know, you and I first met and really bonded over actually parenting before we ever talked about health. And we share that similarity. I tell my kids every day, “I love you unconditionally and there’s nothing you ever have to do to earn my love and there’s nothing you could ever do that would take away from my love.” But you’re right. Also, I want that, like, their pride to come from inside of, like…and I tell them often, “You must feel really proud of how hard you worked and you must…” Because I want them to have that inside them and that self-love.

And this is why I’m so grateful every single day that I get to talk to our audience that’s listening today of moms, because I think moms have such an amazing unique ability to really shift the future of humanity by how we parent our kids and by helping form those future leaders. And for people who aren’t already familiar with you, I would encourage you to listen to our past interview because you tell more of your story in that one and you very much walk the walk of this, of having built all these amazing things and then now helping your kids on their life journeys and your wife in her own right is incredible as well. So very grateful for your whole family and for all that all of you are doing in the world and for your time today. I know how busy you are and I’m so grateful you took the time to be here.

Naveen: Oh, Katie, it’s always an honor and a pleasure to be speaking with you, and I’m looking forward to our next conversation.

Katie: And thank you, as always, to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did. And I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama” podcast.


If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.


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