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Every single person is unique, not only physically, but even internally. Because each person is unique, shouldn’t we have a diet specific to what our body needs? In this episode, Naveen Jain tells us the at-home tests that Viome has created that help in optimizing our health. He talks about the importance of feeding the microbiome what it needs and that every gene in our body is important, so all genes expressed in the body need to be tested to fine-tune what diet our body needs specifically.
Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. Today is one of those days that’s going to change your life. I’m so sure of it. This episode is mind-blowing. Cutting-edge, state-of-the-art at-home tests—you don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t have to go to the doctor’s office. You don’t have to go to a lab somewhere to have blood drawn. An at-home test that can take a few drops of your blood easily with a finger prick, can take stool, and even saliva and do a huge immense amount of genome work on the microbiome and of the mitochondria of your body, which are also bacteria, and understand exactly what you need to eat to bring everything back into balance and to make your gut bacteria work for you instead of against you. We can heal a leaky gut. We can heal all kinds of autoimmune issues that are triggered by and at its root caused by dysbiosis. This is very exciting.
If you listen to episode 440, the one right before this, I had a gastroenterologist who has been working for 14 years helping people heal the gut with food. This episode complements that one because now we’re taking something to a whole new level where now you get to determine exactly what foods specifically for you right now, specifically for the very complex and individual microbiome matrix that is so specific to you. No two people in the world have the same makeup of gut bacteria, and so of course, not one exact diet fits all. Why is it that some people can eat bananas and some people can’t? It’s because of our gut, and it all starts there.
We could even heal food allergies by following this method. So I’m so excited for you to listen to today’s episode. I want to let you know that I always ask founders and owners of companies to offer discounts to the listener. So Naveen has offered a discount for listeners. If you choose to do his at-home test, you’re going to use the coupon code LTH when you go to his website Viome and you use the coupon code LTH. I want to let you know that his website has a discount right now. He does have things on sale, but he does have things at a discounted rate, and you’ll get an even further discount by using the coupon code LTH. But there will come a time when those discounts on the website go away, you’ll still get a discount by using coupon code LTH. Go to viome.com, use coupon code LTH, and get a further discount.
Enjoy today’s interview. It’s a doozy for sure, and I can’t wait to have him back on the show. My husband and I have ordered the kit, and we are going to be doing it. So the next time I have him on the show I will be sharing our experience with it, and I’m very, very excited. I’ve already told some friends about this and every single one of them said how can I get my hands on this kit. This sounds amazing. I have a feeling that everyone’s going to enjoy today’s interview and make you think about your bacteria in your body in a new way.
Thank you so much for sharing this episode. Thank you so much for supporting the Learn True Health podcast. Come join our Facebook group if you get a kit from Viome and use the coupon code LTH there. If you end up going to viome.com and doing the kit, please come to the Learn True Health Facebook group and share your results as I will share mine as well. I’d love to hear from you guys and hear what you think. Excellent. Let’s figure out what we can do to feed our mitochondria and feed our microbiome to achieve absolute, amazing health together. It’s so exciting. Enjoy today’s interview.
[00:04:09] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 441. I am so excited for today’s guest. We have Naveen Jain on the show. Viome is your website, is your business—viome.com. I’m very excited about this. You are offering a discount to listeners. The LTH coupon code they can use. You give testing that allows us to get precise food and supplement recommendations based on our gut microbiome and mitochondrial health, and this is fascinating. So many of my listeners have asked me what food allergy tests they should get. And every week, my listeners are asking about different probiotics and how they can heal the gut. Many of my guests have said that if you want to heal any disease, you have to start by healing the gut microbiome. It is that important.
And of course, now we know more and more that if you don’t have mitochondrial health you have a disease. Your company is helping people to get right to the root and solve this health crisis we have of chronic disease. I’m excited today because you said you wanted to talk about how we can, as a society, move in the direction so that chronic disease becomes optional. Welcome to the show.
[00:05:43] Naveen Jain: Thanks, Ashley. It is just amazing that we are living in this world of COVID, and it is hard to even mention that as a humanity, we really have done a great job of infectious disease. These pandemics, like COVID, happen once every 100 years. But at the end of the day, the world has this epidemic of chronic diseases. Think about it, we know or every one of us knows at least a dozen people who are suffering from obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, or autoimmune disease. You can give names like heart diseases, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, but these are just the symptoms. These are just symptoms of chronic inflammation.
So one of the things that I realized is that chronic diseases are really caused by chronic inflammation. In terms of chronic inflammation, the root cause of almost all of the chronic inflammation, especially the systemic chronic inflammation, tends to be the gut microbiome. We somehow feel that we have discovered some new signs and new biology about human beings, and we are so much smarter. But if you go back 2500 years ago and Hippocrates say the same thing, “All diseases begin in the gut. Let food be thy medicine. Let thy medicine be the food.” It’s not that we have become any wiser or any smarter, except that now we have a scientific way of actually looking inside the body and finding out what is going on.
So if I were to describe Viome in a simple way, we digitize the human body. We look at every single gene that’s expressed in the human body. We look at the human gene expression, mitochondrial gene expression, the gut microbial gene expression, and the oral microbial gene expression. As you mentioned, these things all work together. Unfortunately, it’s not like these things are just siloed. What happens in your gut doesn’t stay in the gut. It changes our body. What happens in our mouth when we chew our food changes what happens in the gut that changes what happens in the body.
All these things are interconnected. As we go along here, we’re going to talk a lot more about this latest research and the latest science of what we’re learning.
[00:08:10] Ashley James: I’m going to just come out and say the big elephant in the room. Let’s just clear the elephant in the room right now. A lot of my listeners are really interested in doing the different gene tests, but they’re afraid of—myself included. My naturopathic physician was suggesting I do one of these gene tests, but I don’t want to give my genetic code over to a company that’s going to sell it to a pharmaceutical company. Does Viome promise to not sell our RNA or DNA sequences or the information of our body to other corporations? Do you keep our information protected and safe?
[00:08:54] Naveen Jain: First of all, the short answer is yes. I’m going to give you a slightly longer answer as well.
[00:08:58] Ashley James: I’d love a longer answer.
[00:09:00] Naveen Jain: So the longer answer is, remember, your DNA or your genes never change. That means you’re born with your DNA, you’re born with the genes, your genes never change. Anytime someone who is telling you they can give you some recommendations based on your genes is simply fooling you, here is why. Now imagine, if I made the recommendations to you based on your genes and a year later you gained 200 pounds, has your genes changed? No. Your recommendation better change because you’re not going in the right direction. Now let’s assume you also developed depression, now you have autoimmune diseases, now you have diabetes, you have every chronic disease known, and now your genes still haven’t changed. So how can you possibly tell me that somehow the solution lies in the genes?
What really the diseases develop when your gene expression that means your expression of genes is constantly changing, your genes don’t change. So if you’re not looking at gene expression you will never be able to know what is causing a disease, and that’s literally how cancers are formed or everything. It is the microbial gene expression signaling the human genes expressions and they’re literally working in coordination that causes almost every single chronic disease. If you’re not born with a disease you’re not going to get a disease unless you actually trigger it, and these triggers happen with the choices that we make every day.
The interesting thing about gene expression is genes are like your thoughts. You can have good thoughts or you can have bad thoughts, and as long as you don’t express any bad thoughts there is no crime that happens. In the same way—you can have good genes or bad genes. If your bad genes are not being expressed, then you are in good shape. It is really about the expression of genes. You may or may not know, Viome is the only company in the world that actually measures the gene expression because no one has figured out how to sequence RNA because they all look at DNA, which is genes rather than RNA, which is really where the gene expression comes from. As we go along we’ll tell you a lot more about that. I just want to make one more point.
Assume hypothetically that I looked at your gut and I got the gene expression of it. God forbid, let’s assume somehow somewhere our data got stolen. Let’s just assume because anybody who tells you that they have a complete foolish safeguard. We are HIPAA compliant, we have every single security put in place. But let’s assume, God forbid, it does get stolen, then what now? The question you have to ask yourself is since your gene expression is always changing, someone can beat the out of you and you still have a different gene expression so they won’t be able to match it back to you. That means since it’s a dynamic environment we know what is happening right now. And six months later or a year later, it’s going to be completely different. That’s why it is less critical to worry about gene expression than about genes. I hope that makes sense.
[00:12:07] Ashley James: You said some very interesting things in there. Your microbiome gene expression triggers your body’s gene expression. We know the microbiome is incredibly important, but the microbiome is reaching out and sending signals to our body, and our body’s gene expression will change based on our microbiome’s health.
[00:12:29] Naveen Jain: Of course. Think about that, right? I mean 70% of our immune system is along our gut lining. How does our immune system get trained? So it’s literally the signals that microbial—what I would call micro poop, which the technical term is metabolites. The microbiome metabolites. That means the molecules that are produced by the microbiome based on the food they eat they produce certain molecules, and I call them micro poop because they’re literally the poop of these microbiomes. Sometimes these poops are really, really good. They produce short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate.
So the butyrate is a microbiome metabolite or microbiome tool. That literally triggers our immune system to calm down, so it’s anti-inflammatory. There are things like that microbiome produce a molecule called LPS, lipopolysaccharide, that literally creates then tells the immune system to start creating more pro-inflammatory compounds because it says, hey look, the bad stuff is here. Start creating the pro-inflammatory stuff so we can kill that stuff right. It’s constantly interacting with the immune system. Just know that our immune system does not have eyes and ears. Our epithelial cells don’t have eyes and ears. It is simply acting on the biochemicals or the chemicals that are being produced by the microbiome. And based on what is being produced, our body changes. For example, most people probably know that 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut, not in our brain. And serotonin is, as most people know, is the molecule that actually makes you feel good. Serotonin makes you feel good, right?
The interesting thing is 90% of it is produced in the gut, and it’s produced by the human epithelial cells. But how do the human cells actually know when to produce it? That is triggered by the gut microbiome. So the microbiome triggers the chemical that actually causes the epithelial cells to produce serotonin. They literally are always interacting with each other and you will find that that’s why without microbiomes, your genes are necessary for you to be born, but you couldn’t live if you didn’t have the microbiome in your body.
In fact, the majority of if you look at all the genes that are expressed in our body, 99% of them are expressed by the microbes, which are foreign to our human body. If you look at the human genes, Ashley, less than 22,000 genes that are expressed in the human genes are protein coding genes. When you start to look at the microbes, 39 trillion microbes in our gut, and a trillion in our mouth and all over our body. They are expressing somewhere between 2 million to 20 million genes. And that means at any point of time, we have probably less than 1% of the genes that are expressed in the body are our own, and the rest are all coming from somewhere else. We are literally a container for all these organisms. That’s really—we are beautiful containers for these organisms.
I might even argue that these organisms may have actually created us for their own benefit, right? If you are interested I’ll give you my creation story of how I think humans may have been created.
[00:15:55] Ashley James: We definitely have to hear that, especially when you look at it that way. When you look at it from a standpoint like we’re the planter box that the garden lives in. When you realize that that’s six pounds of gut biome sitting in our digestive system is trillions of cells and does 99% of the gene expression of our entire body. And it does things like convert our thyroid. 25% of our T3 is converted there. Our serotonin is made there. Our short-chain fatty acids are made there. So much of our nutrients are digested there. We know that when someone has an unhealthy or a sick microbiome that their entire body becomes sick. There’s a direct relationship.
Yes, it’s not us in that we didn’t grow. It’s not like the cells of my eye that I grew or the cells of my finger that I grew, but it is ours to take care of or to neglect. Just like having a pet, we have to take care of the microbiome. We can’t just eat whatever we want. If we eat whatever we want we’re going to get the common diseases. I often say in the show if you want to be a statistic, do what everyone else is doing. If you don’t want to be a statistic like the number one killer is heart disease. One in three people will have a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. One in three people has pre-diabetes or diabetes and are obese. All these diseases are on the rise, even though we spend, as a nation—I’m talking about the United States, but most industrialized nations are similar to us in that we spend the most out of every nation “health care” and yet we come in dead last in things like infant mortality and other chronic illnesses.
Your mission is to help build a society where chronic illness is an option. Where someone could choose to not be chronically sick. I love that you also mentioned if you’re not born with a disease, if you didn’t develop a disease in utero, and you weren’t born with a disease, then any disease that comes after birth is optional. Very interesting. I want to talk about those points. Let’s start though by going back to what you said about your creation story because it’s interesting. I’ve had an expert on the mitochondria on the show and he said—and this just blew my mind—that the mitochondria of our cells are a different DNA than the rest of our body. So at one point, we merged with mitochondria and made an agreement that they would be part of us.
We really do have foreign living organisms in a beautiful relationship with us. So tell us about your creation story.
[00:19:02] Naveen Jain: I think as you started that, think about it. Microorganisms have been on planet earth for three and a half billion years. The humans are, give or take, a couple of hundred thousand years old. How do you think the human came to be? And this is my tongue-in-cheek story and then I’m going to tell you the scientific basis of all how it actually happens. But this tongue-in-cheek story, once you hear it you can never unhear it. Now imagine this world. Close your eyes and imagine this world. All these microorganisms are living in Africa and then one day they all got together and said we are sick and tired of living in a small space. We want to take over the world, and they all looked at each other. One of the microbes says I have an idea. What is your idea?
What if we can create something bipedal and trillions of us could live right inside it? Now, all we have to do is keep this person. We can make it crave any food we want and they’re going to run all over the world, find the food for us. All we have to do is keep this thing healthy. Now we can make it crave anything we want and it’s going to go everywhere, it’s going to poop, everywhere, it’s going to spread us around, and we’re going to just take over the world. They actually created humans and they named it humans. Right after they created humans, they started to wonder, oh my God. What have we just done? As you can possibly imagine, we are so worried about artificial intelligence and we keep wondering what if someday the AI becomes smarter than us, what will happen to us humans?
So microbes had exactly the same thought. They all reassemble and say, master, master, what have we done? We created this monster called humans. What if someday it became smarter than us? What will happen to all of us? Master says not to worry for a second. We took care of all those problems. Master, what have you done? Master says, well the first thing we did is right inside their cell we put one of our brothers right inside their cell, and can you believe that they call that mitochondria. It provides all the energy for their cell and we keep in direct communication with us all the time. We are bacterial brothers, we talk to them all the time. At any point in time the humans don’t take good care of us, we tell our mitochondrial brother to shut the energy down and they’re all dead.
Master, that is brilliant. However, you’re forgetting something. What son? They are starting to develop this thing called the brain, what are we going to do about that? Master says, that’s the first thing we thought about what do you think we did? We put a direct connection to their brain and can you believe they call that a vagus nerve? They thought they’re going to name it after Las Vegas thinking what happens in the gut is going to stay in the gut. They’re so wrong. What happens in the gut goes everywhere. Now, through that vagus nerve, we control their mood, we control their behavior, we control their thinking, and we control their craving. And guess what, if they want to feel good they better take good care of us because we’re not going to let them produce most of the serotonin. 90% of that we’re going to produce it ourselves.
So ladies and gentlemen, we are the ones that actually are the puppets, and our puppet masters are these trillions of organisms that are constantly pulling the strings and telling us what to eat, what to do, how to think, and what happens to us. It’s a tongue-in-cheek story, Ashley, but I can tell you some of the research that came out. Just two weeks ago there was a research that showed that our social behavior, whether we are extrovert or introvert, actually is driven by our microbiome.
[00:22:55] Ashley James: Wow.
[00:22:56] Naveen Jain: Our mood is driven by our microbiome. Our cravings for the food are driven by microbiome so much so they did an experiment on different types of sweeteners, and it turns out that the microbiome releases the signal directly to the brain that releases the dopamine that is specifically designed for the sugar molecule. They want to test the theory is it just a sweetness versus actual preference for the sugar. So they did the artificial sweetener, and the microbiome hated that. They wanted their sugar. So they thought maybe it is because of the amount of calories the sugar has. So they actually created this molecule that had identical to sugar except that it cannot be digested. That means it won’t produce any calories. Guess what, they still have the same preference for the sugar molecule. That means they literally want their sugar, and that’s what happens. When we eat sweet stuff we crave sweet stuff, right?
But now interestingly, these organisms that make you crave for that stuff if somehow you can use two weeks of willpower not to eat sugar, guess what happens. You actually don’t even feel like eating anymore because we kill the organisms that are making you crave that stuff. And that’s literally what happens. You and I look at some people and say oh my God, how can you just eat this salad and some people say I love it. I enjoy it. For our microbes it’s like, I don’t want that stuff right. I want my bread. I want my pasta. I want my pizza.
Another very interesting thing we noticed, Ashley, was our blood sugar, diabetes, or glycemic response is completely dependent on what is happening in our gut. We actually did a large study that showed that we are able to predict the glucose response for a specific food based on what is going on inside your gut. That means two people can eat the same slice of bread and one person will get six times the glycemic response and the other person get none. Intuitively, we know some people who can eat bread all day and never get fat, and some people like me can smell bread and get fat, right? We all know that happens. That thing is all are driven by our gut.
The other interesting thing that we talked about—cancer and heart disease, I’m going to tell you something very interesting we found. In the last 30 days, there were two research papers published—one in cell and one in nature. And they looked at about 20 different types of cancer. What they realized was every single cancer tumor had microbiome inside the tumor, and that microbiome was very specific to each cancer, not only providing the energy to the cancer cells, but also protecting it from the immune system.
Remember, the microbes can tune the immune system down, so they were releasing the anti-inflammatory signal to let the cancer actually continue to grow so the immune system doesn’t kill it. Isn’t that amazing that now we are able to simply look at—there is a company that’s looking at it, just looking at the microbiome in the cell and the blood plasma and predict that not only you have cancer but what type of cancer just by simply looking at microbiome.
In fact, we applied for FDA now that by looking at the microbiome in our saliva we can predict stage 1 or stage 0, the pre-cancerous cells in your mouth oral cancer with 94% accuracy just by looking at the saliva microbiome. And it is really amazing how oral microbiome is communicating directly with the gut microbiome, is in constant communication. So essentially, are in fact our body. The other thing that’s really very fascinating to me is almost all of the metabolic diseases and you look at some of the neural diseases like depression, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, many of them are obviously directly tied now to the gut microbiome. In fact, they were able to do a fecal transplant and were able to actually transfer the depressed person’s poop into a person that was not depressed, and actually the same phenotype goes across.
There was another very interesting research that recently came out. There was a person who had Alzheimer’s, and it turns out the person ended up getting a C. Diff infection. And for the C. Diff infection, they gave you tons of antibiotics, and then they do the fecal transplant. This person, after they got a C. Diff infection, they got a fecal transplant and six months later, this person’s memory came back. So Alzheimer was reversed simply with changing the microbiome.
Think for a second. Now what we are learning is just like when our gut microbiome is behaving improperly or what I would say dysbiosis, we get this leaky gut. And these microbes are constantly now going past the epithelial barrier into our blood, and our immune system is constantly inflamed trying to deal with that. The same thing happens when we have leaky gum. Remember, when you have blood, the gums which are inflamed. And now when you brush you’re bleeding because that inflammation now the microbiome from the mouth is now starting to go into the blood causing the same systemic low-grade chronic inflammation.
What they found was, at least in a couple of papers, oral microbiome could be a predictor for Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and autism just like the gut. What’s really happening is that when you get the inflammation in your gum, in one of the studies they showed was not only the pathogens move from the mouth to the gut, even the immune cells—the Th17 cells—they actually fluorescence those cells. They saw them move from the mouth all the way to the gut. That means our immune system cells are moving as well when we have inflammation in the mouth. When we don’t have good oral hygiene, not only you are actually causing inflammation in the body, you’re also causing the inflammation in the gut, which also furthers the inflammation in the body.
[00:29:16] Ashley James: There are two things, one is to screen. So you can use the microbiome to screen for cancer, you can use the microbiome if there’s dysbiosis in the mouth, for example, which could be a precursor, like you said, to dementia and other problems. We can screen the microbiome and see what kind of diseases could have been created in the body because of this. So screening or early detection, especially with cancer, is key, but it’s not prevention. Prevention is the best key, it’s the root cause because if we could do a course correction or prevent it from becoming a dysbiosis in the first place, that would be the best thing.
So here we have people. Most of our listeners are really excited about getting even healthier. Some have major health issues, and some are fairly healthy but they want to get to the next level. Let’s just assume that all of us, on some level, may not have the perfect microbiome. We all have some form of dysbiosis or Homer Simpson gut. I once heard someone refer to the standard American microbiome as the Homer Simpson of microbiomes because there are so few. It’s like a dumbed-down microbiome, and that makes us crave really bad food for us. We could grow a new microbiome that would make us crave healthy foods instead of bad foods, that would give us our serotonin so we’re happier, that would prevent diseases, that would heal up the gut so we didn’t have leaky gut, and it just cascades into better and better health.
Does your testing help us do both screening things but also then teach us what we can do to regrow a healthier microbiome?
[00:31:18] Naveen Jain: The first thing is, I will tell you, we’re not a diagnostic test. We don’t tell you have cancer or you have this particular disease because that will be an FDA-approved diagnostic test. What we do instead is to look at what is going on inside your body. We will look at that blood, stool, and saliva, and based on that we can tell you what your cellular health looks like. That means cellular health consists of many things. In terms of what your oxidative stress looks like, how do your cells behave under stress, what is your cellular senescence looks like, how is your immune system activation, what is causing the immune system to be active.
We will give you things like your gut health, your cellular health, your mitochondrial health, your immune system health, your stress response health, and your biological age because in some sense, what is your true inside age rather than what your chronological age is. And under each one of those scores, we give you the sub-scores that if your gut health is this, what is causing you gut health to be this poor? Is it because your LPS is too high? Is it because your butyrate is too low? Or is it your sulfide production is too high? Ammonia production is too high. After looking at all of that we say here are the foods that you should avoid, and for each thing, we tell you why for you specifically.
For example, the first time when we launched the thing I did a test. I honestly thought, Ashley, I was eating the healthiest one could. I’m a vegan, to begin with. I’m eating spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprout. I wasn’t thinking I am going to be the person they’re going to put a picture of me and say this is what the healthy person looks like. It turns out, my gut was so bad it told me not to eat broccoli and says your sulfide production in your gut is very high and the broccoli contains a very high amount of sulfate. You should lay off the broccoli because the sulfide is causing a lot of inflammation in your gut.
My second thing was not to eat spinach because it sees your oxalate pathway for your gut microbiome, which is very poor that means you eat spinach that is very high in oxalic acid, it is not going to be digested properly. All the protein that lentils and legumes I was eating says it’s producing a lot of protein fermentation and producing ammonia that was causing issues because I was eating so much of this. That means they were not being digested, instead were going to the colon where they were being fermented and microbes were releasing ammonia. It told me to take a digestive enzyme along with my food to be able to digest that protein so it does not get fermented in the gut.
Literally, for every food it says here’s what’s going on, here are the food you should avoid, and why. Here are my superfoods and for each one it tells you why. And then it says here are the supplements that you need to keep your body currently correct. Because a lot of the things that your body is not currently producing that your body needs, so in the short term you should take these supplements until we can get your microbes to start producing that. Take butyrate so you can at least heal your gut lining while we get the short-chain fatty acids to get going.
Literally, that is what the test does. What is interesting is come now three years later, having followed this, my biological age now, I am in my 40s even though my chronological age is at 61. I’m in my 40s as a biological age just because I’m able to heal my gut and get my immune system health, mitochondrial health, and my cellular health to be this good.
[00:35:19] Ashley James: You’re in your 60s?
[00:35:20] Naveen Jain: Yeah, 61.
[00:35:22] Ashley James: You really do look like your early 40s.
[00:35:26] Naveen Jain: Yeah, so there you have it. My biological age is still I’m 40.
[00:35:29] Ashley James: I mean some of us would just do your test because we’re vain and we want to look 20 years younger.
[00:35:36] Naveen Jain: Ashley, I’m going to tell you something very interesting here. Now we looked at biological age and something really fascinating data that now that we’ve analyzed over a quarter-million people now. It’s a lot of people we have analyzed, and here is the thing that really surprised us. The number one offender of your biological age, that means what makes you really, really old is—now I’m going to say it and I’m going to probably get a lot of hate mail for that—the keto diet. The ketogenic diet makes people really thin and lose weight in the short term, but technically it completely their body.
[00:36:17] Ashley James: I can believe it. I had several keto doctors on and it sounded really interesting. My husband and I ended up doing the ketogenic diet with a naturopathic physician where we came in weekly. We did it for three months and we were very strict on it. I’ve done it about three times in my life, but this was a very strong stint of being in constant ketosis for three months with this naturopath. At the end of it, I had developed such bad liver problems that my liver was distended. You could see my liver was sticking out of my gut. It was very inflamed and painful. I went for an ultrasound and they said it wasn’t cirrhosis, it wasn’t fatty liver, it was just inflamed liver. My liver was so bad. All of my liver enzymes were through the roof. Basically, my liver was very damaged.
But what was worse was my husband developed incredibly high blood pressure like worrying about an aneurysm kind of blood pressure. Very scary high blood pressure in those three months. We went for further testing and he found out that he had such bad kidney damage from the ketogenic diet that it took him over a year of eating a whole food plant-based diet and supplementing to heal his kidneys. He had been put on several medications in the interim. We’re working with a really great naturopath here. It’s a naturopathic physician who’s a cardiologist. He specializes in heart and getting people so healthy they no longer need high blood pressure medication.
Working with him, it took my husband over a year to heal his kidneys and get his blood pressure back down from that event and get off of all the medications. It wasn’t worth it. What I do love—
[00:38:08] Naveen Jain: My point is you and I are both going to probably get canceled.
[00:38:13] Ashley James: I’m sorry.
[00:38:14] Naveen Jain: We are both going to be canceled. In a cancel culture, people are going to just think we are the two nut people trying to bad mouth keto diet because there are so many fans of the keto diet.
[00:38:24] Ashley James: You know what, my experience with my listeners is they’re very open to learning about and hearing it. I hope they’re not going to just cancel out what we said because they love the keto diet, and I get it. I get it. I was a raving fan of the ketogenic diet. I looked in all the research, followed the doctors, and I really, really loved it until my husband and I had those experiences. Then I turned around went wait a second, I was really ignoring all of the signs that it was deteriorating my health and it’s a very acidic diet. It’s very bad for the gut. It’s a way to manipulate the survival mechanism in the body, but is that really health? Is that really going to be long-term health?
I have a few friends that are really heavily into keto, and they have been for a few years. I’m afraid for them in the long term. So you’re seeing though that when they analyze cellular age that it is the one diet that ages people the quickest?
[00:39:32] Naveen Jain: Yeah. Remember, the aging is fundamentally the aggregation of all the damage that we are doing to our body, right? To some extent, the keto diet was one of those biggest offenders followed by the paleo diet, by the way. It’s really all these fad diets that we fall into maybe the short term may work for some people, not for others, but they really damage our bodies. To me, it is all about the right balance. You have to eat a balanced food. You can’t say carbs are bad. Carbs are not bad. Carbs are needed for your body. The point really is there is no such thing as a universal healthy diet.
A diet that’s good for one person may not be good for another person. Or even the foods that are good for you today may not be good for you six months from now because remember, when you change your food habits your gut microbial ecosystem completely changes, and then you have to readjust. It’s a constant tuning of your body. Just like you have to tune your car once a year, you got to tune your body every couple of times a year to keep this body into a perfectly working machine. If you want a great working machine you got to keep it tuned. And that’s what the gut microbes do is adjusting your diet so you can keep tuning your gut microbiome to stay in homeostasis. Another thing, Ashley, I found the concept of this good microbiome and bad microbiome. I think that is being just one of those misnomers just like good genes and bad genes.
These microbes actually all work together as one big ecosystem. Think of your gut microbes as a rainforest. That means every step you take in the rainforest can be completely different from each other, yet everything can be lush and green. That means no two people have the same gut microbiome. Both can be extremely healthy. In a sense, it is not about what organisms are there in each person’s gut. That is the second part that when you talk about health, and this has been a big, big misnomer in the field of microbiome. That’s the reason why science has never advanced. Our focus has always been in genes—microbiome genes, and the human genes—the DNA. What that meant was the focus on microbiome was to tell me who is there. I want to know the names of every organism that is there. Somehow thinking that will allow us to find out why people are sick.
The biggest breakthrough for us at Viome was we say that can’t possibly be the problem because I’m being naïve. I thought the microorganisms are probably like human beings. That means there are two people who could have completely different microorganisms producing exactly the same thing that may be causing a disease. Or the same organisms could be producing completely different things in two people’s gut based on the environment and the ecosystem it finds itself in, right? Because remember, you and I both know—like human beings—depending on which company we are in, our behavior changes, what we do completely changes. Me at work—an entrepreneur, me at home—a dishwasher. What changed? Not me. The environment, right?
And it’s very interesting that you look at Akkermansia, which generally most people consider to be good bacteria. Akkermansia can be very good when it is actually taking the fiber and producing butyrate or short-chain fatty acid for us. And Akkermansia can be extremely pathogenic and is known to cause many of the diseases including cancer when it actually turns into virulent and pathogenic. It is not about the organism itself, it is the environment. When you find an organism under attack—so let’s assume there are a lot of other pathogens or something that actually the organisms find to be inhospitable. The organisms start to release inflammatory compounds and antibiotics to kill other organisms so it can protect itself. Now the same organism that was producing short-term fatty acid is now producing toxins trying to kill everything else, in turn harming the body that it’s inside.
The point I’m trying to make is this fundamental change that we did at Viome was we focused on what these organisms are producing. That means what biochemicals are being produced rather than who they are because our body can’t see the bacteroidetes. My body cannot see the fusobacteria. My body cannot see Akkermansia muciniphila. It only can see the chemical signals that are being produced, and it doesn’t care why. It only cares about what is being produced. Our job now is to look at this ecosystem and say what biochemicals are being produced? How do we change the input? Like a computer, if food is the information, when you give it a new set of information, now the process comes up with a totally different output. So when input changes, your output changes.
But in this case, it is a self-modifying operating system in a sense that when you change your food, the organisms that can thrive on that food start to grow, and other organisms that can’t digest those foods start to wane. And now your ecosystem changes, that means now you have to start changing your diet again so that you can start to create a balance. Otherwise, when you keep eating the same food, the certain organisms that are really, really good at metabolizing that food they become in so much quantity then they start to behave poorly and they start to form the biofilm and they start to misbehave. It’s literally about getting the right balance between all of these different organisms to actually produce more and more nutrients for us.
[00:45:52] Ashley James: I love it.
[00:45:53] Naveen Jain: Makes sense?
[00:45:54] Ashley James: Yeah, absolutely. So the trillions of cells in our gut doesn’t matter what they are. There’s a variety. It’s like a rainforest. It’s more about what they’re producing. Don’t think of it like it’s a bad microbiome or good microbiome, it’s what’s being produced. What if someone has candida, for example? What if someone, in the past, we’ve called that a bad microbiome. The candida—the concern though is the byproducts it’s producing are toxic for the body, right?
[00:46:24] Naveen Jain: The interesting thing is, again, every organism—for example, one of the worst offenders is C. Diff, right? I mean everybody knows about C. Diff. Obviously, once you get a C. Diff infection then literally there’s not much you can do. You take as much antibiotics as you can and your only survival for people I’ve seen is FMT after that—fecal transplant. It’s very interesting almost every one of us has C. Diff. It is when it becomes out of control that means other organisms, which are good organisms, don’t keep it in balance, then it goes out of proportion. Remember, we need some of these—what I would say—pathogenic people to constantly keep our immune system primed.
Immune system is very interesting. When it is very, very low activity that means not prime and suddenly you get an infection, your immune system is really not ready for it. The immune system can’t be too inflamed—it’s really bad, or it’d be too low where it’s actually not ready for attack. The best way to do that is to have your immune system ready, but not be at high, high inflammation. That means at high activation where it’s dealing with so much inflammation. And that means a little bit of these pathogenic activities actually keep your immune system primed for you to be actually capable of dealing with when there is a pathogen out there.
In fact, when you look at our immune system health, when you have low immune system activation it is bad, and when you have high immune system activation is bad. And if you want to protect yourself from flu, cold, or for example COVID, the best thing you really need to do is to be right in the middle when it is in the best adult prime hood to go take on the enemy.
[00:48:11] Ashley James: Fascinating. Here we have a vast microbiome, and we want to support the body in having a diverse microbiome. Because what you’ve described as being optimal for the immune system. With your test, it’s testing for the byproducts of the microbiome. Then we can see what’s out of balance because it’s not so much, like you said, about what bacteria you have, which ones. The body doesn’t see that, but the body is affected by their poop and is affected by their byproducts. And some of their byproducts can be incredibly healing for the body, so we want to continue to feed those and give them the nutrients for them to thrive like the short-chain fatty acids are—
[00:49:08] Naveen Jain: Are good.
[00:49:10] Ashley James: Sorry.
[00:49:10] Naveen Jain: They’re very good. The SCFAs they’re very good, but they need fiber.
[00:49:15] Ashley James: Right, and they need fiber. You want to be eating the potatoes, for example, instead of the white bread. You want to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, but the problem is then we have these other microbiome that might be over-producing something that is harmful. So your test will say okay, this substance is too high in your gut so you want to limit these foods. Does your test also tell us what we should eat more of or continue to eat to support and grow a more diverse and healthy microbiome?
[00:49:51] Naveen Jain: Yeah. We give you a superfoods. Here are your top 20 or 25 foods you should eat as much as you can. Here are your foods of another 500 foods that you should enjoy as much as you can, here are the foods you should minimize, and here are the foods you should avoid. You lift all those four categories. And the one thing we are doing next, Ashley, which we have not announced yet but I’m going to tell you since you asked. We always found that getting these supplements, which are an augmentation to the food, how do we only give people what they need rather than giving as much as you can get?
What we found is any time you give your body something it doesn’t need, it actually has to work hard to get rid of it and that means it only causes damage to your body. We thought what if you can actually create supplements made to order for each individual, one capsule at a time. That means if I looked at your body and say here are the 60 things you need, here are the herbs you need, the food extracts, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, prebiotics, and probiotics. If you only need 22 milligrams of lycopene, there is no way to find it. What if we create these things for each individual made to order?
We’re going to be launching that next month. We’re launching that in August, basically making make to order after we do the test and say you need 22 milligrams of lycopene, 11 milligrams of elderberry, 2 milligrams of chicory root, and we need these 60 ingredients. We’ll literally take those exactly in that dosage for you and put them in these eight capsules in a sachet, make them for you only that time. And then when we do the retest, you can see all your health markers, what they were after you took all the changes, what they changed to, and then we reformulate again as we do the new results. Literally, constantly reformulating and giving you a new recommendation as your body is changing and adapting.
Imagine every four months, you get a completely new set of food recommendations, a new set of supplements that you need, and they’re all sent to you every single month and made just for you.
[00:52:18] Ashley James: Fascinating. So you recommend that someone would take this test every four months because they want to continue to adjust their diet? Obviously, diet is key, but then they can also have supplements made to order for their specific gut health and their body health.
[00:52:35] Naveen Jain: We also take all your superfoods that you need and we actually extract their stuff and put them in these supplements. For example, we know you may need fisetin that is in strawberries. But the problem is, first of all, you have to eat five pounds of strawberries to get enough fisetin. And the second problem is it also contains a lot of histamine producing products in the strawberry. In fact, we will see strawberry is avoid for you but the strawberry extract actually could be in the supplement. People say wait a second, how can the strawberry extract may be in my supplement when you’re asking me to avoid strawberry? And the answer is we literally just took out the fisetin from the strawberry, we gave them as a supplement, and we took out all the other histamine producing stuff that is going to cause you problems.
It is quite possible the food maybe avoid, but the underlying ingredients can actually be in the supplement that you need. That makes sense to you?
[00:53:35] Ashley James: Absolutely. When you went back and you took the test and it told you should take a digestive enzyme because you’ve been fermenting your food instead of digesting it. You should avoid these foods but eat more of these foods. Even though you eat a whole food plant-based diet, you eat a very, very healthy wholesome diet, you made these slight changes, which don’t seem bad. Cut out this vegetable, include this vegetable, and take an enzyme. That’s almost no effort at all to do. What health changes did you see in your body take place after doing that?
[00:54:10] Naveen Jain: Another interesting thing that you’ll find fascinating. My wife had completely different. Everything that was my superfood was her avoid, and my avoid for her superfood. And it became a challenge. We’ve all been told to eat together in the same dinner. It became a challenge for us to start following those diets. We ended up really making two things—one that was good for her, and one that was good for me. We started adjusting smoothies because for even right now, coconut water is her avoid and coconut water is my superfood. Guess what we do. We make the smoothie and I put the coconut water after.
What I’m trying to say is she is healthy, she works out every day. She tells me, “Why do I need to do anything? I am just so healthy already.” When she did that test and followed the diet—the husbands are always or your spouse is probably the dumbest person you ever know because they think what do they know? They’re not a doctor. How can their company be telling me do this. He’s not a doctor, what does he know? I said, “Look, why don’t you do the test and follow it for three months and you’ll find out for yourself.”
She does the test and she says, “You know it’s amazing. I used to always feel tired in the afternoon. I just needed a 15 minutes nap, and I just thought it is something that is needed. Now, I just don’t feel tired all day. I just never take a nap.” It’s like wow. She tells me quietly, “You know all my baby fat is gone.” I didn’t know how to respond to it. All I could say was, “What baby fat? I never saw it.”
[00:55:52] Ashley James: Good husband.
[00:55:58] Naveen Jain: The point I’m trying to make is for me, I don’t need more energy, but God, after I change my diet I feel so good. I jump out of the bed at 4:00 AM in the morning jumping with joy, wanting to do things, and I can work 17, 18 hour days and I work 7 days a week and never feel tired.
[00:56:18] Ashley James: I love it. Both of you—even though you were healthy to begin with—saw total improvements in your health in a few months just by making sure your diet was going to be optimal for what your gut biome produces. It’s so cool to think about how we can just cut out one food, include another, and all of a sudden our microbiome is producing better chemicals for our body. And then our whole body responds on every level. Energy, weight loss, mental clarity, and even hormone function.
[00:57:01] Naveen Jain: Everything.
[00:57:02] Ashley James: You have two tests. At viome.com you offer the Gut Intelligence service. I’m really surprised by your prices, to be honest, because I paid over $200—it was close to $300—to have my food allergy testing done. And I thought your services would be like $1000. The Gut Intelligence service is cheaper than what it cost for me to get my food allergy testing done. I’m thinking that if I followed your system in terms of the food recommendations, I’d have far better outcomes than following the IgG food intolerance test. You’ve got this Gut Intelligence service, and then you have another one, which is the Health Intelligence service that includes the Gut Intelligence service. Can you tell us about each one and why we should choose one or the other, or should we all just choose the Health Intelligence service because it includes so much more?
[00:58:11] Naveen Jain: Yeah. Obviously, one thing is the price. Look, if you can’t afford the Health Intelligence service, then you use the Gut Intelligence service. And again, the Health Intelligence service looks at your body, which is human gene expression, mitochondrial gene expression. That means we’re now looking at your cellular health, we’re looking at your immune system health, we’re looking at your mitochondrial health, we’re looking at your stress response, and we’re looking at your biological age. All that stuff also goes into our recommendations. If you’re not doing that test, then you still get very, very good recommendations, but only based on what’s happening in your gut microbiome.
Gut Intelligence test only looks at the gut microbiome. Health Intelligence looks at the gut microbiome and all the stuff that’s happening in the human body from the blood test. It is essentially an at-home test. When you order, it comes in—by the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the test or not—a beautiful kit. It’s literally like a Louis Vuitton silver metallic box. But the interesting thing is because we didn’t want people to feel it’s some type of a product that looks like a medical product because we want to make it very easy for people to use.
The way it is done is so easy at home. Even for blood, you don’t have to go somewhere to draw the blood. It is literally you finger prick it, four drops of blood. There is a small pipette, you put the pipette next to it, it draws a full drop of blood, you put in the test tube, prepaid envelope, a touch of stool—prepaid envelope, and you’re done. Literally done. Ten days, two weeks later, in the app, it tells you everything that we saw, so all the insights into your body. And it tells you here are your superfoods, here are your foods to avoid. For everyone it tells you why, so here are your superfoods and why, here are your foods to avoid and why, here are your foods to enjoy, here are your foods to minimize.
And the supplements that you can made to order for yourself, or you can just go buy them from Amazon. But in that case, you’re getting a whole bunch of stuff that you don’t need and paying 10 times more for the stuff that you don’t need. That means you could be spending $500, $600 a month getting these supplements, and most of the stuff you don’t need versus we just only put the stuff that you need and give it to you on a monthly price, which is substantially cheaper than what you would buy.
[01:00:36] Ashley James: Absolutely.
[01:00:38] Naveen Jain: Another interesting part that you mentioned was the food sensitivity test. I just want to say it because I think most people don’t realize. The food sensitivity is actually about IgG, which is the immune system antibodies for this food. Why would a food ever create a goal into the blood for your immune system to create antibodies? Think for a second.
[01:01:02] Ashley James: Because you have a leaky gut. You got a leaky gut and the food is getting in there. You eat some carrot, a tiny piece of carrot gets in. For me it’s bananas. I’m just so depressed about this. I loved bananas, and now my body just wretches and has such a negative reaction to bananas out of nowhere, but it’s leaky gut. So I ate some banana, I had a leaky gut, the little particles of banana got into the bloodstream, my immune system attacked it because it’s a foreign body—it’s not supposed to be in the immune system. Anything injected into the bloodstream that the body didn’t create as a foreign body that the immune system is going to mount a response against, and it’s not supposed to be there. If I were to eat a banana, my immune system would mount a huge response and my gut totally hates it.
[01:01:56] Naveen Jain: But here’s a very interesting thing. There are two points to make. One was if you have a leaky gut, you’re going to get the antibodies for almost every food that you eat a lot of because a little bit of it’s always going to end up in the blood. Literally, the IgG tells you that you have a leaky gut because if you are allergic to all these foods, all that means is you have a leaky gut. Not that you really are sensitive to those foods, it is what they show. If you fix the leaky gut because these antibodies go away in six months or nine months, then you would be able to eat the food. More often than not, most of the IgGs goes away.
In a sense, if you can now fix the leaky gut and you can tighten the epithelial barrier, then many of those IgG just disappear. So my point I’m trying to make is that the food sensitivity test is the wrong, wrong word. You’re not sensitive to those foods, you simply have a leaky gut. The point is, food should never be in the blood to begin with and there should not be an antibody. You’re not sensitive to those foods. You made them sensitive by eating the foods when you had a leaky gut. That’s all happened.
[01:03:09] Ashley James: Following the advice after doing your test would allow us to seal up the gut and heal it so we no longer have a leaky gut?
[01:03:19] Naveen Jain: That is correct. One of the scores that we give you is actually the intestinal barrier health. That means how tightly your intestinal barrier is actually regulated. You want to keep it nice and tight, and we give you all the foods and supplements to make sure that the only reason it gets permeable or leaky is because of the inflammation. As you can see, inflammation stretches the thing and that causes it to get the junctions to get loose. The best thing you can do is to reduce the stuff that causes inflammation, increase the stuff that is anti-inflammatory, and get more foods that are going to give the nutrients that your body needs. Remember, there is no such thing that more of the good thing is better. That is another thing that most people actually make mistakes on.
For example, somehow you probably heard that you take NAD, and NAD is really good for longevity. It increases your mitochondrial biogenesis, it’s going to make you younger, and you’re going to live longer. And it turns out, there was the research that came out, I think, two months ago that shows that actually the NAD precursor, NMN, and NMNH, when you have high inflammation or high cellular senescence, it causes the cytokine storm and causes the inflammation to get even worse. The point is when you have higher mitochondrial biogenesis, you are actually now creating more free radicals. And if your free radicals were already being over-stressed because they were not getting cleaned up, now you even have high amount of free radicals that are going to cause more inflammation in your body, and higher cellular stress.
[01:05:10] Ashley James: So it just cascades? It’s like a domino effect. People are often just eating whatever they want. You go to a restaurant, you go to a friend’s house, or your spouse cooks, you cook. You cook something that your kids like to eat. We just throw anything into our mouth, just whatever. Just order Thai food. Let’s just eat that. There’s a ton of ingredients in there that might be triggering to your microbiome. Okay, now we’re going to order pizza tonight. Okay, now we’re going to go to McDonald’s drive-thru, or we’re going to go to Starbucks. It’s interesting, though, I got to tell you. My husband switched from Starbucks to a different kind of coffee at one point in his life and he noticed a huge health change. He looked into it and he saw that there’s stuff in Starbucks. There are ingredients they put in their coffee and that will disrupt your health. And if someone were to just switch to a cleaner organic coffee, many people have noticed emotional health changes, as well as physical changes.
Let’s say you wanted to have a pizza, there’s a difference between something you make at home, from scratch, with your own ingredients and you know exactly what’s on it versus the delivery pizza. If we make pizza, we have a cauliflower crust. I make my own sauce on it. We don’t have any cheese, we put some vegetables on it, and we can make something really healthy. But when we do, which a lot of people are doing right now, ordering out at restaurants, we’re throwing just random stuff out of our microbiome to handle. Actually, one of my clients recently said my poop is fine. My poop is fine. I’m good, my poop is fine. I thought that was just the weirdest response. I don’t need to change my diet, my poop is fine. I get enough fiber. I’m fine, I poop. It’s okay. And I just thought that’s so interesting that someone thinks they have a healthy gut just because they poop.
[01:07:08] Naveen Jain: A couple of interesting points you brought up, Ashley. Same thing on supplements. Oh, I heard my friend tell me that the elderberry is really, really good for me not to catch COVID. And I should be taking vitamin C, vitamin D, and I should take this. They have no idea what that thing is doing to your body. You just hear it, you read about it in some magazine you say, oh, I need the green coffee extract because it will help me lose weight. Really? My point is all these things, you get every single magazine—here are the 10 supplements you should buy, here are the 10 ingredients that are a superfood, and you’re always looking for what is it that you need. You keep popping more and more and in the morning you take 20 pills just to make sure you got everything that everybody has mentioned to you and end up harming yourself rather than actually helping yourself.
That is really the trick is to know what exactly your body needs and how much, rather than just thinking somebody recommended so I’m going to take it. I think it’s not just the food but also, as you mentioned, how you prepare it and where you buy it. Let’s assume tomatoes are good for you. If not, you can now buy some tomatoes which obviously have all kinds of pesticides in them. You may still want to get good organic tomatoes. How you cook the food, the tomatoes are more beneficial when they are cooked rather than when they are raw. We eat pizza just like you do. We sometimes make a whole wheat at home pizza, no cheese on it, and we put so many different colors of vegetables on it. We make our own tomato sauce, and then we actually now cook the tomato sauce with basils and stuff and herbs and oregano. We literally make our own pizza that I think is pretty healthy.
It’s not the pizza is bad, it is the ingredients on the pizza and everything else you put on top of that and the crust itself that may be the one that’s causing problems.
[01:09:07] Ashley James: Exactly. Now I’d love to know a little bit more about your company and Viome. Tell us about the history of your of Viome as a company. Because I know that you have a mission and that you see a future where biome is helping the world to make chronic disease an option. They get this testing and then they go okay, I can choose this path and go down this road of disease, or I can choose this path and go down this road of health. We’re not forcing it upon anyone, but it is giving people information and giving them the ability to make better-educated choices about everything they put into their mouth because they’ll know. They’ll have the science to know what is the optimal thing that they could eat and put in their mouth or drink at every moment of the day to maximize their longevity and their health.
Viome I know has this mission. You’re seeing where you’re going in the future. First, tell me about your past. How did Viome get started? How long have you guys been doing this? What kind of doctors and scientists are behind it?
[01:10:29] Naveen Jain: The technology for Viome came from Los Alamos National Lab, which had designed this for the biodefense work. And this is the only technology that’s available to be able to actually measure the gene expression. Preserve your RNA, measure your gene expression, and find out what molecules from the gene expression are being produced. And then we use the AI to be able to see if this is what’s happening in the body. Here are the bioactive compounds in this food. How your gut, which is really a chemical factory, is going to turn a food chemical into what will be the output. It’s a complex chemical factory, but once you know what are the bioactive compound in a food, then you can see what they’re going to translate them into, what is the poop of the chemical factory that’s going to come out, and is that going to be good for you or bad for you?
We started this company four years ago. And anytime I start a company, Ashley, I ask myself three questions. One is why this, why now, and why me? The first question is, God forbid, I am actually successful in doing what I’m about to be doing, is it going to be able to help a billion people live a better life. And if the answer to that is no, then I’m thinking why would I dedicate 10 years of my life to doing something that does not move the needle. And the reason for that is whether you do something small or you do something big, it takes every ounce of energy and it takes every effort to do something. Why not do something that is meaningful and that’s going to literally improve the lives of as many people as you can?
And the second part of that thing is are you truly obsessed about solving this problem? I didn’t use the word passion because a lot of people talk about I’m passionate about this. Me, in my world, passion is for losers. Passion is for hobbies. Passion is I am passionate about meteorites. That’s a passion. That’s not an obsession. Obsession is I go to sleep thinking about how do I solve the problem of chronic diseases? I jump out of the bed at 4:00 AM thinking about how do I go solve this problem? And part of this obsession comes from having lost my own dad to pancreatic cancer and watching him go through the system that could have easily, not only prevented cancer, could have also cured cancer, but they would not go beyond what is the current practice.
I showed them all the research how pancreatic cancer is caused by the gut microbiome going through the bile depth into the pancreas. Showed in the research how the researcher, in fact, injected the antibiotics directly into the pancreas, killed the microbiome, and the immune system killed cancer. Showed them research. I said all I want you to do is just put antibiotics in his pancreas and I would take the responsibility. My dad will sign the thing, I’m going to sign the thing, and you are not responsible. They say we will not do it because that’s not what’s allowed. No, I could not do anything. Nothing I could do and watch him die.
And I told my dad, I said, “Dad, look. I can’t save your life but I’m going to dedicate my life to making sure no one else has to suffer. No one has to suffer from cancer. No one has to suffer from diabetes, obesity, heart disease, or watch someone lose memory from Alzheimer’s or have Parkinson’s. I just don’t want that to happen to anyone else.” So that’s my obsession.
Part of it is you have to believe that what has changed in the last five years that allows you to do this now than 10 years ago. The reason is if something could have been done 20 years ago and if nobody’s doing it, you have to assume you’re not the smartest guy in the world. Somebody would have solved this problem. So there has to be what has changed? To digitize the human body, the cost of sequencing has to come down. When we started, the cost of sequencing would have been several thousand dollars. We said look, it is an exponential curve. I know in the next couple of years it is going to come down. We were able to use robotics and break it down, and we said let’s go do that.
The second part of it was: are computers going to be powerful enough to be able to analyze these petabytes of data that’s going to come out of, which is the cost of competing going to kill us? And the answer was you can fire up a thousand cores on Amazon Web Service and you’ll survive, and the cost of processing is coming down to zero. AI has to be powerful enough to analyze this massive data because every single person—you’re now looking at you know tens of thousands of these gene expressions and you have to analyze for every single thing. That’s massive AI. Is it powerful enough? The answer was yes, it is happening now.
The last part is the most, I would say, interesting part for me, entrepreneurial perspective, called why me? Why me is what is it that I believe that other people are not thinking about? What question that I am asking that is different from what everyone else is asking? And that’s why they are solving the wrong problem, they are working on a different problem, or they are not going to be solving the problem—their question is completely wrong. And let me give you a couple of examples of that, what I mean by asking the right question.
My other company is Moon Express. We are trying to make humanity a multi-planetary society. Can we settle down on the moon? And then essentially take that humanity into Mars, Pluto, and beyond. And the reason for that is all eight billion of us are living on a single spacecraft. And God forbid, if we get hit by a large asteroid, humanity is going to get completely wiped out. It’s not the planet won’t survive. The planet will do just fine. Remember 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the planet? All the dinosaurs completely got wiped out, and dinosaurs were much larger than us. The planet actually did just fine. The planet did so fine that it created humans.
Now we may get wiped out and it may create superhumans for all we know. But the point is if you can hear any dinosaur rolling in their grave what would they be saying? If they had one good entrepreneurial dinosaur they’ll be roaming on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. So I thought, what if we can do that? Now, what do you think the first question people ask when we say hey, we can live on the moon. They say how are you going to grow the food on the Moon? And my thinking was wait a second, that’s the wrong question.
Instead of asking how to grow the food on the Moon, what if we ask a different question. Why do we eat food? Because if you ask the question of how to grow the food, the only solution is to grow the food. But if you ask a slightly different question, which is why do we eat food? Now there are many solutions. You eat food for energy, and you eat for nutrition. What if you can get energy from radiation? What if you get energy from photosynthesis? What kind of nutrition do you need? Hydrogen, oxygen. What if you can get that from water? But the point is, just by changing the question, now you have a plethora of possibilities rather than just growing the food.
The same thing happened in the space of Viome. Look, all the research is clearly showing the gut microbiome is key to chronic diseases. There are tens of companies doing microbiome as service. Why is the problem not getting solved? And it turns out that everyone was asking the same question. I want to know what organisms are in our gut. And I say what if the question is different, which is what they are producing? And if we can solve that problem, then we will be able to solve the chronic diseases. And that’s the reason I started Viome.
By the way, we hired the head of IBM Watson who worked on the AI, and he runs our AI. We hired the best genetic expression people out of human longevity, Craig Venter’s team. Craig Venter, as you know, is the guy who sequenced the human genome. And then the guy who developed the technology for Los Alamos, Dr. Momo Vuyisich. We actually hired him to go develop this technology for us. So we got the best and the brightest from around the world to solve the problem that we wanted to solve.
Another interesting point, Ashley, is if you set out to solve a problem like how to make chronic diseases optional, you get the best and the brightest because they want this to be their legacy. Smartest people want to work on the toughest problems, right? And that’s why it’s easier to solve an audacious problem than to solve a smaller problem. So that’s really the history.
In four years, as we have come along, we have helped hundreds of thousands of people. If you just literally look at the emails I get every month about the number of people telling me that you saved my life, you saved my wife. I thought I was going to die and now I can walk. It’s just an unbelievable amount of comfort you get that your hard work is not being wasted. You’re doing something that actually improves people’s lives. Really, my goal is to provide actionable information to people that they can act on rather than simply do things and give you information that is not actionable.
My DNA test, I’m six times more likely to get Alzheimer’s, enjoy. What am I going to do with that?
[01:20:13] Ashley James: That’s true. You go get those DNA tests and they just say here’s what you could have. Angelina Jolie has her breasts removed because she has the BRCA gene. Well, the BRCA gene doesn’t mean you’re going to have breast cancer. And in fact, when the BRCA gene expresses in a healthy way it prevents breast cancer. She was worried about the BRCA gene expressing in an unhealthy way that would create breast cancer, and then what, she continues eating McDonald’s, continues eating whatever she wants and disrupts a bad microbiome. Cancer can show up anywhere. It doesn’t have to show up in the breast. She could get a different kind of cancer. What is she going to do, remove everything? Cut out all her organs?
This just infuriates me that women are being told, and I’ve had clients where the women were told to have full hysterectomies and their ovaries removed because their sister had ovarian cancer, or their sister had some form of cancer that was triggered by hormones. Because it’s in their family and their genes, all the women in their family should have their ovaries removed. This is ridiculous. This isn’t preventive medicine. To remove organs to prevent cancers is ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous.
[01:21:42] Naveen Jain: And more than, these genes would not have actually evolved through the selection if they were always bad for you. Think about that. They would have been wiped out from the human population if they were bad for you, right? The same thing by the way for Alzheimer’s is called APOE6. APOE6, it turns out in the Amazonian forest they have 8 or 10 copies of them and they never developed Alzheimer’s. In fact, it turns out it is supposed to protect you against all types of bacterial infection because they have so much mosquito-borne diseases it protects them from all those diseases that’s why they have these many copies of things. Elephants have eight times more the same APOE6 gene and elephants never get Alzheimer’s, right?
[01:22:27] Ashley James: And an elephant never forgets.
[01:22:30] Naveen Jain: And never forgets. There you have it. My point is, these GWAS studies are so bogus. In fact, it turns out, when you look at these GWAS, which is Genomic-Wide Association Study, they did 20 studies on depression. They basically will take 200 people who are depressed and say oh, look at what we found in common. The 20 separate research were published all differently. One guy decided that he’s going to do a matter research of look at all these 20 research and see what is in common. And he concluded there is not a single gene that is actually in common between these 20 research that causes depression. It is nothing but measuring the noise because any time you can find a pattern in the noise when you have these millions of these genes, you’re going to find something out there that’s common between these 200 people and you publish a paper. It doesn’t mean that it’s actually causing the disease.
[01:23:26] Ashley James: Like they all ate apples.
[01:23:28] Naveen Jain: Yeah.
[01:23:29] Ashley James: Right. It must be apples because they all ate an apple on a Tuesday. It’s not about the gene is what you’re saying. It’s about the genus expression, and that’s epigenetics. Because we epigenetically can turn gene expression on and off depending on the nutrients that are available. So people can express in a way that develops a disease. And you give the body new nutrients, different nutrients, and the body then expresses in a healthy way that suppresses that disease. So it all comes back to the food. But you take it one step deeper and go back to the microbiome, so it all comes back to what we’re feeding the microbiome because the microbiome is feeding us these chemicals. And we have to optimize the chemicals the microbiome is feeding us in order to optimize our own health. I’m very excited.
[01:24:29] Naveen Jain: Agreed. That’s literally what it does. And I really hope that your audience gets to go try this because I’ll tell you that it will change their life. It will fundamentally. Small changes will have a massive impact on their own, and they can feel it. Not only will it improve their health from the inside out. They will be able to feel it. They will feel younger, they will look better, they’ll have more energy, the mental fog, and all the stuff. And hopefully, prevent all these chronic diseases from happening. Every single person who joins also essentially helps everyone else before them and after them so that we can together understand what is causing these diseases and prevent it from future generations. Even if we don’t do it for ourselves, let’s do it for our children and grandchildren.
[01:25:21] Ashley James: Absolutely. As we’ve been sitting here I’m thinking, well, I’m definitely going to do the Health Intelligence service, which you give listeners a discount. So please listeners, you can go to viome.com and use the coupon code LTH as in Learn True Health. Use the coupon code LTH for your discount. I’m going to get the Health Intelligence service, but I’m also going to get it for my husband because like you said and I just know this, he and I react differently to different foods. I’ll feed him at dinner and all of a sudden his gut looks like he’s nine months pregnant. Because he’s fermenting. Whereas I eat that dinner and my gut’s great. I’m like oh, that felt wonderful. But for him, it made him bloated. And then there’s another meal I’ll make and I get bloated and he doesn’t. We definitely have two different microbiomes going on that we need to help. But what about my son?
My son’s five years old and we have a lot of listeners with children. Can children do this as well?
[01:26:20] Naveen Jain: Yes. Yes, they can but the parents have to consent to it.
[01:26:26] Ashley James: Of course. Well, yeah because we’d be the one pricking the finger for the blood and collecting the stool sample. That’s right. So walk us through. Is it saliva, stool sample, and a little prick of blood that we can all do it in the comfort of our own home?
[01:26:42] Naveen Jain: Yeah. Currently, the Health Intelligence only has blood and stool. We are launching the next product, which is going to be the whole body intelligence that will also include saliva. But that’s currently not available. So only products available are Gut Intelligence and Health Intelligence.
[01:26:58] Ashley James: Got it. So very soon you’ll have the one that has all three. We’ve talked a lot about Gut Intelligence. I’m interested about the microbiome. Your Health Intelligence service, what kind of information does it give us to help us to optimize mitochondrial health? I’m really interested in supporting mitochondrial health. You talked about how the gut talks to our mitochondria. Is it that by correcting the gut and supporting the gut health and supporting the microbiome we’re supporting mitochondria? Or are there further steps to take to support mitochondria?
[01:27:36] Naveen Jain: Well, first of all, as you pointed out earlier, Ashley, mitochondria is an organelle inside our own cell. It has its own genes. It replicates itself just like any other bacteria. So inside ourselves, these bacterial cells are constantly replicating. It has its own 12 genes. We look at its own gene expression to see how much energy it is producing? How much is it replicating, which is called mitochondrial biogenesis? When the cells divide you need the mitochondria, you need all the energy. So if you don’t have enough mitochondrial biogenesis happening, you’re going to start feeling tired. You don’t have enough energy. Cells are going to die.
So we look at all of the mitochondrial biogenesis. Then remember, if you go back to high school biology, the mitochondria is the one that completes the Krebs cycle, that ATP cycle. You take glucose and it actually gets converted into ATP. If anything inside that, to complete that cycle there are a whole bunch of coenzymes that they need. So for example, if you are missing some coenzyme like CoQ10, then you may actually not be able to produce energy. And then we will actually give you the foods that are high in CoQ10 or the supplement that contains CoQ10.
It’s literally by looking at your mitochondrial gene expression, we are able to recommend the foods that are good for you, recommend the food that you should avoid, and also include them in the right set of supplements. If there are certain things that you’re not producing but you need, we give them to you as an augmentation or supplement with that.
And we do the same thing with, by the way, cellular side. So by looking at your blood, we’re looking at your cellular senescence. These are the cells that neither died but they’re still alive producing toxins. And the cellular senescence causes aging. So we have to also worry about making sure how do we go out and making sure these cells don’t become these zombie cells. So we look at your cellular stress. We look at, as I said, stress response. We look at your immune system’s health. Because if your immune system is highly inflamed, not only at that point.
Essentially your body is going to constantly be in inflamed mode causing a whole bunch of diseases and getting your organs to start failing. But also, you’re not prepared to be able to deal with the infection. Whether it is cold, flu, or COVID. To be able to get your immune system right in the place, that’s the reason I recommend people do the Health Intelligence Test because they get the most comprehensive insight into their body, and the recommendations are now based on more information rather than just the gut information.
[01:30:16] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you. I’m really excited about your pricing. Just thinking about the last time I got blood work at my annual visit with my naturopath. Even after having insurance, insurance pays for only so much because you’ve got deductibles. I actually paid more. I paid more out of pocket than having your test. So it cost me more to get all these other tests, whereas they didn’t actually tell me. The blood tests I get that I pay a ton for, even with insurance at the doctor’s office, don’t tell me what to do. I mean, the doctor is supposed to tell you what to do, but most doctors don’t. Most doctors go okay, well I guess we got to get you on statins now. You’re going to get on metformin soon. Because MDs will use blood tests to determine if you need to get on drugs. That’s not health. We’ve got two different philosophies of thinking.
The mainstream philosophy of medicine is wait till you get sick and then get on a drug, which will probably make you sicker but whatever. We’ll suppress symptoms in the body. You’ll do that until you die and maybe get on more drugs as you age. And then there’s the other way to think, which is I want to get so healthy I don’t need to be on medication. I want to get so healthy that I optimize myself and I look 40 when I’m 60. I want a blood test that I pay hundreds of dollars for at the doctor’s office to actually tell me what to do. Okay, here’s the information. Here’s where you are. Now here’s what you should do to get better. That’s been my frustration.
Even though yes, I get to sit down with the Naturopath and they look over. Here’s your A1C hemoglobin. Okay, you’re getting better. Here are your triglycerides. Oh, they’re a little up. The Naturopath would be like—because I eat brown rice they’re like—eat less brown rice. What do you mean eat less brown rice? Is that really what’s causing high triglycerides? And we go through all these different things on the blood test, and at the end of the day, I was left confused because it was sort of muddled. Keep taking your supplements, maybe a little less brown rice, and see you in a year when you pay another $500 for all your work up. That just drives me up the wall when I’m not given a really clear intelligent scientific path to take.
Here enters your third option. The third option is your testing. Now you’re not saying don’t go to a doctor, don’t go to a Naturopath. You can absolutely continue that route but taking the Health Intelligence service that you offer in the comfort of your own home. And now you’re given very, very specific instructions on what you can put in your mouth to optimize your health, and then you do it in another four months or so and then you see that you’re getting better. You see that you’re progressing.
If someone were to do that for a year they’re going to get much better results that if they just waited to get sick, go to the MD, and get on drugs. Or saw a holistic practitioner who just took a bunch of blood and then said well, we’ll keep monitoring this but maybe eat a little bit less rice. They have no idea because they didn’t test for what your microbiome needs and what your mitochondria needs.
So I’m very excited for what you’re doing. I’m really, really excited to take the test myself, my husband, and my son. I know that some listeners are going to absolutely want to take the Health Intelligence service test and join me in trying this and seeing how they can optimize their entire body, every cell in their body, to be fully nutrified because they’re eating to feed the gut. To make the gut biome make exactly what we need.
This is just so cool. I love it. It’s finally the right time, like you said. It’s the right time because now the costs can be driven down so low because of AI and because the way machines can be used, robots can be used in labs. Now gene sequencing isn’t thousands of dollars. When I started the podcast four years ago it was thousands of dollars to take tests similar to this, and now it is a few hundred dollars, so this is very exciting.
I definitely want to have you back on the show after I take the test and after my husband and I do this. We can follow up, and I’m sure we can talk more about it because like you said, your company is releasing this next test shortly. There’ll be more information to talk about, but I’d love you to come back and have you continue to share what Viome is doing in the future as you unfold more and more exciting services in your effort to make chronic disease optional. This is very exciting. I definitely want to have you back on the show. Is there anything you’d like to say to wrap up today’s interview?
[01:35:25] Naveen Jain: I would say, first of all, Ashley, thank you very much for hosting me. And all I can say is keep dreaming and dream so big that people think you’re crazy. And never ever be afraid of what you want to do because imagination is the only thing that stops us from achieving what we want. Let’s just keep moving humanity forward. Let’s just keep doing the things individually what we can to contribute back to humanity. I look forward to coming back and talking more.
[01:35:53] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you so much. Listeners can go to viome.com and use the coupon code LTH. Join me in doing the Health Intelligence test, and let’s feed our gut what the body needs. It’s so exciting. Thank you so much.
I hope you enjoyed today’s interview with Naveen Jain from viome.com. You can go to viome.com and use coupon code LTH as in Learn True Health, coupon code LTH for your listener discount. And please, join the Learn True Health Facebook group and come tell us about your experience. And I’d also love for you to join the Facebook group and share what you thought about this episode, other episodes, come ask questions. It’s a free community of wonderful holistic-minded people who want to achieve true health. I look forward to hearing everyone’s results using the Viome experience. The Viome feedback from their tests and their app, and I can’t wait to do it myself. I’ll let you guys know how it goes in a few weeks after I get my results back and start eating specifically for my mitochondria and my microbiome. And I can’t wait to hear back from you guys and hear how it’s helping you as well.
Excellent. Have yourself a fantastic rest of your day. And I hope wherever you are, you get to go out in nature, put your feet in the grass, have sunlight on your face, take a few deep breaths, and think of things that you are grateful for. Help ground yourself, come into yourself and feel love and gratitude for all the trillions of cells in your body and all the wonderful energy that’s flowing through you. God bless.