Why Oral Health Is So Important for Overall Health With Naveen Jain

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Katie: Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I’m Katie from WellnessMama.com and I’m back in this episode with return guest, Naveen Jain, to talk about why oral health is so important for overall health and why microbiome is key. We also talk about parenting as we always tend to do. And if you’re not familiar already, Naveen is an intensely curious entrepreneur who is not afraid to take on audacious ideas that will help humanity. He’s the author of the award-winning book, Moonshots: Creating a World of Abundance. And his current adventures are Viome and Moon Express. As a serial entrepreneur, he previously founded Infospace, Intelius, and TalentWise, and now focuses on Viome, whose singular mission is to make illness optional. They have an AI-driven platform that analyzes the interaction between food, our microbiome, and our human cells in order to develop precise nutrition and prevent and reverse chronic diseases.

And in this episode, we go deep on the oral microbiome, how 99% of the genes in our body don’t come from our parents but from the 100 trillion microbes that call our bodies home, how oral health relates to overall health and gut health, what the oral microbiome is and how to improve it, how oral health is connected to things like colorectal cancer and heart disease, why the bacteria in our mouth is related to digestion, nitric oxide production, and much more. We talk about what biofilms are and what to do about them, the importance of things like oral pre-, pro-, and post-biotics, the difference between genes and gene expression, and how gene expression is constantly changing, and then go deep on the topic of parenting, which is always a favorite topic for the two of us. So let’s join Naveen. Naveen, welcome back!

Naveen: Well Katie, what a pleasure to be talking to you. Every single time I talk to you, it brings back great memories and unbelievable energy because you are just such a great, positive person.

Katie: Thank you. I feel the same. And I think back to our first long conversation many years ago at an event where we talked about everything from parenting to very specific gut microbes and everything in between. And I’ve enjoyed every conversation since then. And I’m excited to jump into this one.

People might be familiar with you already from our past episodes that went really deep on the topic of gut health and how that relates to the whole body. I’ll make sure to link to those in the show notes. If you guys have not listened, you can find them at wellnessmama.fm. But today I’m really excited to continue the microbiome conversation in a couple of directions that I feel like are very relevant and that you also have expertise in. The first being the topic of oral health and how this relates to not only gut health but the health of the body.

Dave: Hey Naveen, what you doing?

Katie: Hi Dave Asprey, for those of you that are listening in.

Dave: Of course I can’t hear you because no earbuds. But Katie, love you, you’re awesome.

Katie: Hi Dave. What a fun cameo. I’m doing wonderful. You look awesome. It’s great to see you.

Dave: Great to see you.

Katie: You too.

Dave: I love what you do, I love what you do. If you’re in the south, just want you to hear from me.

Katie: Awesome. Well, thanks for hopping in. For those of you guys who aren’t watching, Dave Asprey has just joined the conversation.

Naveen: All there good to continue.

Katie: Well, I was going to say to continue our conversation from our past podcast, I feel like we got such good depth on the gut microbiome and how this relates to our whole body and every aspect of health. And I feel like another really important topic here that you are also an expert in is the topic of oral health, which we know also has a microbiome also relates to gut health, but also impacts the body in a myriad of different ways. So to start off broad, maybe just walk us through the concept of oral health, the oral microbiome and how this relates to overall health.

Naveen: First of all, let’s just first of all step back and look at the human body itself, right? We are so proud of who we are as humans without realizing that 99 percent of all the genes in our body don’t come from our mom and dad. These are the microbes that live inside our gut. They live in our mouth and our ears and our scalp and all over us 100 Trillion of these microbes that call the humans as home

So we really are to large extent this walking talking ecosystem within the larger ecosystem we call universe. And any point of time we disturb this ecosystem Whether we are disturbing our oral microbiome or we are disturbing our gut microbiome. We in fact end up making our body sick and the reason is because our body has come to rely on these microbes to provide the nutrients that our body needs. They are the sensors for the human body. They literally are telling when there is something bad is coming into the mouth, when something is bitter taste, something is a bad taste, that it is the signal they send out, they say spit this thing out or vomit it out. This is just no good for you, right?

So all these signaling are done by these microbes that are constantly interacting with the environment. So microbes and the environment interact together and they interact with the human host that we are as a host and these hundred million microbes that live inside and on us.

What’s really interesting about the oral health is it’s really a gateway to our digestive system. We as humans are really like a donor. There is a tube that goes through us and there is a whole body that’s around us. The beginning of the tube is our mouth where all of our oral microbiome resides. And what’s really interesting is that in terms of the types of microbiome, there is more diversity of microbiome in our mouth even though the quantity of microbes is lower than our gut. But they are more diverse set of microbiome in our mouth than they are in our gut.

And just like gut, what happens in your mouth doesn’t stay in the mouth. It actually impacts not only our gut microbiome, but also impact us as human beings. In fact, now the oral health is directly connected to our cardiovascular health. As most people may or may not know, our oral microbes are the primary producer of nitric oxide. As you know, the nitric oxide is absolutely needed for relaxation of our vascular system and without that, we will have heart disease. And in fact, it also improves your sexual health, let’s just say, you know, very clearly nitric oxide also increases the blood flow. The nitric, in addition to the oral microbiome, is directly connected to metabolism, especially diabetes.

And many of the microbes in our mouth are now being directly connected to Alzheimer. So when you have leaky gums, because our gums are the barriers, when your gums are bleeding, all these microbes are now going into the blood. And there is a theory that these microbes are now, in fact, infecting the blood-brain barrier, ends up in the brain, and that causes the infection. And when they analyze the people who die from Alzheimer, they see a tremendous amount of P. gingivalis and gingipain being produced in many of these people who have Alzheimer.

In fact, many of the oral microbes sometime end up settling in our gut. We, every day, we as humans are swallowing about 1.5 liter of saliva every single day. So that means we are swallowing all of those oral microbes that go into our gut. Normally these microbes would die in the stomach because of the acidity. So normally the acid in the stomach would kill many of these microbes, it’s not most of them.

But, you know, as more and more people are on anti-acid drugs and taking Nexium and Pepsid, now we don’t have enough acidity in our stomach to kill these microbes and these microbes end up settling in the gut. In fact, a couple of the microbes like Fusobacterium nucleatum, which is an oral microbiome, when it ends up settling in the gut, becomes number one predictor of colorectal cancer. So the colorectal cancer in fact is caused by Fusobactin nucleatum, which happens to be an oral microbiome.

So as you can see that even though we have… we have our kidney and we have a heart, these are all interconnected. It’s not that what suddenly happens in your mouth is going to stay in the mouth and what’s happening in the gut stays in the gut. All of our systems are interacting with each other. And we as human body are also interacting with the environment. So we really have to take care of our environment because that also impacts who we are.

Katie: Yeah, I feel this is such a fascinating topic. I first got into researching this many years ago, actually, when I found out I had a few small cavities and I was pregnant at the time, so I didn’t want to get them filled. And during that time I was pregnant, we ended up moving and I got a new dentist. And when they did the oral exam, I didn’t have cavities anymore. And until that point, I had been told that cavities could never heal. So I was fascinated by what had happened.

And I started researching and reading about the oral microbiome and how, just to touch on the surface level of what you just explained, there’s all these trillions of bacteria happening in the body, but in the mouth especially, it seems like there’s competing bacteria and it can go pathogenic in one of two ways. So it can go towards the strep mutans area, which is the cavity forming bacteria or towards the gingivitis strains of bacteria. And they’re both opportunistic. So they don’t typically exist at the same time. So you’ll typically see one problem or the other. But that made me think, of course, that means we can hopefully nourish our good oral bacteria and that relates to not just cavities and gingivitis, but to, like you said, so many aspects of health. And I feel like this isn’t talked about nearly enough.

So in your view, what are some of the things we can do to nourish the good bacteria in our mouth? And what are some things to avoid to keep the bad bacteria from getting too strong?

Naveen: Of course, so first of all, as you can see there, you know, people look at the mouth as primarily as vanity. Oh, I have great whitened teeth. And didn’t mean, and people think of bad breath, oh, it’s just a bad, you know, it’s a bad breath. It is a symptom of things already gone wrong when you have a bad breath. The question really you have to ask yourself is, what is causing the bad breath to happen?

And it can happen because you have a high sulfide production. So your mouth is start to smell like this volcano, you know, sulfide, right? So a lot of the sulfide is very bad smelling. So when you have a high sulfide production by your oral microbiome, you smell like sulfide.

Or you could be producing polyamine, which is another, it’s like a rotten egg, basically. It’s like a rotten egg and you have that smell. And now, interestingly, same type of thing that you mentioned, the S Mutants and P. gingivitis and many other of these organisms, in fact, start to work together. So when there is a biofilm being formed on your teeth, it turns out that many of these bacteria are hydrophilic. That means they cannot actually stick to your teeth. So there are other bacteria that come along, they can stick to the teeth, and that allows the other types of bacteria to stick to these bacteria, and they form the film, which is what we see when we get the plaque, or even when we wake up in the morning, when you rub our tongue on the teeth, we get this slimy stuff. That’s your biofilm, right?

Now to answer your question, what you can do is to really have the oral probiotic and oral prebiotic and oral postbiotic. And Katie, we, as you know, when in our full body intelligence test, we analyze your oral microbiome and the human gene expression at the same time while we’re analyzing your gut microbiome. And we’re also analyzing your blood so we can look at your mitochondria and we can also look at all the genes that are expressed on the human side, including your cytokines and everything else. And all three combined allows us to see what is happening in your body. And until now, we were able to give you the gut probiotics and prebiotics to fix your gut. We were able to custom make the supplements for you that would actually bring your body back into the healthy state.

And now in the next, let’s see, mid-July, you’ll be able to get the oral lozenges for us. They will be personalized to you. So these oral lozenges will be personalized to each individual and they will be able to adjust your oral microbiome, both from a probiotic, prebiotic and postbiotic perspective. That will be launching a personalized toothpaste that will be made for you for AM and PM and that toothpaste again is going to have all the essential oils, probiotics, prebiotics, all of the natural enzymes that your mouth needs to adjust the oral microbiome and one of the things it’s going to do is to completely remove the plaque on contact.

And we have now over 30 peer reviewed studies that shows clearly that by brushing with this personalized gel, it removes the plaque on contact. So I’m just super excited that now we’ll be able to adjust the oral health of people, which is really a gateway to the human health.

Katie: Yeah, and something else I love to highlight when it comes to this topic is a lot of the things when we talk about bacteria that people might instinctively think to do if they think they’re worried about bacteria can actually make the problem worse. So from my understanding, these mouthwashes that we can get at the grocery store that have a lot of alcohol in it or really strong antibacterial stuff, they can actually kill the good bacteria too and actually lead to the bad bacteria getting further out of balance. So I just always like to highlight that. And I would love any input you have on that just because I know people sometimes hear bacteria and wanna go rush to kill the bacteria. But like you’re saying, that’s not always the best option.

Naveen: Well, first of all, think about it. Your body needs these bacteria and these microbiomes. So let’s go bigger, a bigger picture. Remember, the microbiome means micro means small, biome means living life. So this microbiome is really not just bacteria, it is viruses, fungi, it is mold, it is really all of the stuff, yeast, all of the things that we know of, that we have a first ick factor, right? Oh my God, I need to get rid of them. Guess what? We could not live without them. They, in fact, are the ones in our gut, in our mouth, that in our mouth, they pre-digest our food. In our gut, they literally ferment the fiber that our body cannot digest and in turn give us the nutrients our body needs, such as short-chain fatty acid, which is butyrate and acetate and propionate. All of these things are done by microbiome.

Our microbiome produces vitamin K. In fact, without the microbiome in our body, you would not be able to live. In fact, when we do the testing on mice, mice, when we kill all of their gut microbiome and the oral microbiome, basically they are called the mice that have no microbes. They actually don’t live longer and they are sicker all the time. So our microbes actually keep us healthy and when the baby is born to, the baby is born through the birth canal, it gives us a full exposure of microbiome to the baby. In fact, the baby, the microbiome is what’s draining the immune system for the baby. So in fact, the babies get sicker because their immune system no longer does not understand in the beginning what’s a friend, what’s a foe. And our microbiome is constantly training our immune system. And that’s why as they get adult, they have a mature microbiome, the microbiome that’s actually working with them.

And unfortunately, the babies that are born through C-section doesn’t sometimes get all of these microbes and that causes a lot of the issues. So one thing you wanna be very clear is these microbes are your friend. They are not your enemy. So taking antibiotics or taking a mouthwash that’s antibiotic mouthwash, you’re doing more damage than good. Killing these microbes does damage to human health period. So don’t think that simply doing a mouthwash to actually kill the bacteria that may be causing the bad breath, you are doing yourself a favor. You are also getting rid of the bacteria that’s gonna produce the nitric oxide that your body needs. That’s what’s gonna produce lot of the pre-digestive enzymes that our body needs to be able to digest and absorb the nutrients in our body.

Katie: That’s an important point. And one thing I’ve talked about a little bit on here before, but I’ll explain in a little more depth to your point is we are first inoculated with all that important gut bacteria during the birthing process. And of course, C sections are sometimes inevitable, like with my third. But one thing I learned was they can actually now do a swab of the mother’s bacteria and put it on the baby even during a C-section. And the data I’ve seen on that is really fascinating as far as how that can actually help babies have fewer rates of allergies and eczema and a lot of the problems that can come with not getting that initial exposure.

I know that also here there is that link between like we’ve talked about oral bacteria and the gut bacteria. So I’d love to talk about any factors that help to encourage both of those. For instance, one I’ve seen recurring in the literature is eating a diversity of foods, obviously foods that you don’t react to. But it seems like many people today are eating a very narrow range of the same foods over and over and that our guts tend to thrive more when we’re exposed to a wide variety of vegetables and herbs and spices that nourish the body in different ways. But can you speak to that and any tips for giving our bacteria or gut bacteria what it needs to thrive?

Naveen: Sure. So Katie. I’m going to step back and just maybe describe to the audience, people who may not have heard me before about what is it that we do. So I am Founder and CEO of Viome. That’s V as in Victor, I-O-M-E. Viome Life Sciences. And we are, first thing we do is we analyze your gene expression. We analyze your RNA. We don’t analyze your DNA. We look at RNA. And for the people who may not be familiar with what’s the difference between DNA and RNA. So DNA never changes, right? So if you do a DNA test for me today and I gain 200 pounds and you do my another DNA test, it’s still the same. And then I become diabetic and you can do my DNA is still the same. Then I have depression, then I get anxiety, then I get heart attack. and you do my DNA test again, it’s the same DNA. In fact, after I die, if you were to do my DNA test, yet again, years after I died, it’s still the same DNA. We can still look at the DNA of truth in common or DNA of dinosaur. So the fact is your DNA can’t even tell you you’re dead or alive, let alone you’re healthy or sick.

What is constantly changing in your body is not your DNA, but your RNA, your gene expression is always changing. And for the people who are wondering what is a gene expression, the way I am able to understand for myself is that every part of our body is identical DNA. So my hair has the same DNA as my skin, my eyes, my lungs, my heart, my kidney, my nails, my fingers, everything is identical DNA. Yet, I don’t have the eyes growing on my finger and the nails growing on my head, same DNA. And the reason is some genes are overexpressed, some genes are under expressed, different genes are expressed, so same DNA can make any part of our body. It makes our neurons in our brain and it makes the lungs, same DNA.

RNA is the story you are writing, DNA is like an alphabet. So what Viome does is it starts from the beginning to understand what is going on in your body. So you start with the saliva. So you order a kit at viome.com. And once you get that kit at home, you send us a spit of your saliva, four drops of your finger prick blood, and a touch of your stool. And then we start to actually do the complete RNA analysis of everything you send us. So we’re looking at in your saliva, all of your oral microbial gene expression. So we know what are they producing. And then we look at human gene expression in your saliva. Similarly, in the blood, we are able to look at all of your mitochondrial gene expression and the human gene expression that comes from your cytokines. Basically, these are the, you know, your immune system.

And in the gut, we are now looking at all of your 30 trillion microbes and we are analyzing their gene expression to see what they are producing. And then we are looking at the interaction between all of the microbial production, microbial metabolites and the human gene expression.

Now, once we have analyzed everything, we tell you what is happening in your body. So we’ll tell you what’s your biological age, which is how well are you aging or how poorly are you aging, right? So my chronological age is 64 and I’m biologically now down to 52 right? Now imagine when I’m years old chronologically, I could be 40 year old biologically. So that means my wife never have to look for a young man because she’s already married a young man, right? So that’s really the trick is that we can be biologically younger and even though we are actually chronologically getting older.

We give you your immune health, we give you your gut health score, we give you your oral health score, we give you your cognitive health, we give you your cardiac health and we give you 50 plus in-depth insights into your body. And then we tell you, here are the foods you should not eat, and here is why. Eat these foods, and here is why. So for example, there is no such thing as universal healthy food. Spinach can be good for you. And in fact, what we find is of the people, spinach actually harms you because your gut microbes are not able to digest oxalates properly. Now, if your gut microbes are producing a lot of sulfide, and you know the sulfide causes a lot of inflammation, then we know the only way to produce high sulfide is they need sulfate. And what are the foods high in sulfate? Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts. So we say avoid these foods.

Same type of thing, if we see you’re producing a lot of ammonia, then we can say, hey, you know, your ammonia is coming from fermenting the protein. That means you’re taking a lot of protein that’s not being digested. And you have two choices. Take a digestive enzyme with that protein, or cut down that protein. Similarly, you can look at uric acid and say, hey, don’t eat avocado, or don’t take vitamin B3, because your uric acid production is too high. Or don’t take curcumin if your bile acid production is too high. So as you can see, there is no such thing as universal healthy food. And there is no such thing as universal healthy supplement. A same food can be good for you, or it can be bad for you, depending on what’s happening in a microbe. So. One man’s food is another man’s poison, and the same food that’s good for you today may actually be bad for you six months from now as your microbes are constantly changing.

What we do interestingly, Katie, is that once we realize what foods you need and what foods you shouldn’t eat, we also look at what nutrients your body is currently lacking. And then we can tell you that you need every day milligram of elderberry, milligram of berberine, you need milligram of amylase. And we go through every vitamin, mineral, herbs, digestive enzyme, food extracts, probiotics, prebiotics, and we custom make that for each individual. That means there is no pre-made stuff. We literally make the powder for each person every single month. We put that powder in the capsule and we custom make those capsules for every individual every month and we ship it to you.

So you can see that everything that you need to keep your body healthy and everything you need to keep the gut healthy is something we use to provide. And now we will be adding to it the oral lozenges so you can adjust the oral microbiome, the personalized toothpaste so you can adjust your oral microbiome. And we’re going to continue doing more and more things. So one day we can analyze your skin microbiome and make the custom cream that is actually going to be designed for each person that’s going to be skin cream. Imagine if you can analyze your scalp microbiome. We can do a personalized shampoo and personalized hair conditioner for each individual. And same type of things, the foods that are good for you. So we tell you every single superfood. That means you need these superfoods. Now imagine if we can make a superfood pack for each individual that’s custom made for you. So you’re not just eating the same greens that everyone else is eating. We take out the kale is harmful to you or spinach is harmful to your broccoli is harmful to you. We can make the superfoods with only the ingredients that are superfoods for you and that will be a custom made superfood. So we really are looking at, Katie, from our perspective, what can we do to personalize and customize every single thing that human beings need to stay healthy every single day.

Katie: Yeah, it’s definitely super comprehensive what you guys are doing. And I’d also love to springboard onto that because I’ve become a big believer over the years that we need that personalization and individualization. And I’ve spoken to that so much of how we’re each so different. Like you explained that we need personalized inputs. And while we might hear from an expert who’s figured out a great system, their system will not work exactly the same for us, but that there also do seem to be some things that are universally beneficial to us as human animals and that we unfortunately cannot or fortunately can’t put in a pill, which I would put things like sunlight and nature exposure and sleep in that category. Like we know the data on morning sunlight and how that affects our circadian rhythm, how bright midday sunlight and the red light and blue light charge ourselves, how I’ve never heard a single expert in 700 podcast episodes say sleep is not absolutely vital to our health.

So I would love to hear your perspective from seeing all this data for thousands of people. What are the other things that are free that we can do at home that make these things more effective?

Naveen: Absolutely. So first of all, you know, if you look at the longevity, there is like a hierarchy of needs and there are five things that you need to stay healthy and stay longer and stay longer, healthier. Right? So number one is nutrition. I’ve talked enough about nutrition without the proper nutrition. Nothing matters. It’s like having a Ferrari, but not putting the right fuel in that. So once you got in the nutrition taken care of, the next step is actually Katie, the stress, Stress Management, right? Because when your body is under stress, it goes into fight or flight response. And unfortunately, when the body is into the sympathetic mode, which is fight or flight response, it shuts down our digestive system. Remember when we used to be in fight or flight because we’ve been chased by a tiger, you don’t need to worry about actually digesting your food because you’re about to become a lunch for someone else. Right? And when we are stressed, our immune system actually stopped working because it’s not, it’s not necessary. Only thing at that point necessary is fight or flight. So that means your body is ready to fight or ready to run. And that’s the reason if you are under stress, nothing works.

People who are under stress get sick more often. They cannot digest the food. So, you know, what do people do? before they eat, we do gratitude, we do prayers. Why do we do that? It is because it brings the body back from a sympathetic mode to parasympathetic mode. So that means you no longer under fight or fight response. So you can digest your food. And that’s the reason that culturally we are able to do the gratitude before we eat. So it allows us to digest our food.

The number three thing is exercise. Now, I am not suggesting that we have to spend four hours or eight hours in the gym pumping iron, but we all need to be able to do 45-minutes of fast walking. In fact, if you can get four, five miles, steps, a fast walk, that is good enough for most people. As we get older, it really helps even to use your body weight to do some muscle training. So whether you do push-up, you do pull-up, you can do squatting. I mean, it doesn’t require a lot of equipment. You can do it at home. All the basic things that you need to do to stay healthy.

The number four thing is sleep. And there’s so much data on sleep. In fact, it is the quality of sleep that matters just as much as the quantity of sleep. You have to be able to get at least one and a half hour of deep sleep and at least one and a half hour of REM sleep. And because during the REM sleep and deep sleep, not only our body is flooded with the fluid that actually removes the garbage from the brain, so it’s really a cleaning drainage system that happens when we are into the REM sleep or deep sleep. At the same time, it also takes our short-term memory, everything we learn, and it actually moves into a permanent memory. So it takes a short-term storage from hippocampus and it starts to move the memory into our new cortex. So all that happens during sleep. And in fact, when people who don’t sleep well or sleep even four hours or five hours, they tend to become almost as if they are drinking and their brain fog, their energy, and all of the systems are as if they are drunk. So sleep is absolutely critical for human health.

And the last part, Katie, is finding the purpose. It is really important that people who live a life of purpose tend to live to years longer than the people have no purpose. So do something that is beyond you, just good for you. Do something that’s meaningful for others. And the more things you do to make other people’s life better, the better you will be having a better life, a healthier life, and live longer.

Katie: Yeah, I absolutely agree on that. I know we’ve had many personal conversations along those lines and that for both of us, a big part of our purpose is improving the world for our kids and for future generations and our children in general being a big focus.

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This episode is sponsored by Hiya Health, which is my go-to source for multivitamins, especially for my younger kids, before they can swallow pills. Typical children’s vitamins are basically candy in disguise, filled with unsavory ingredients and things you would not give to your children otherwise. Most brands on store shelves are filled with sugar, unhealthy chemicals and other gummy junk that growing kids, or frankly, anyone should never eat. And this is why I’m so glad I found Hiya Health. Hiya makes children’s vitamins with zero sugar and zero gummy junk and unsavory ingredients. Yet they taste great, and they are perfect for picky eaters. They’re also nostalgic and remind me of the children’s vitamins I took as a kid, though I probably wouldn’t love those ingredients. Hiya is unique because it fills the most common gaps in modern children’s diets to provide full body nourishment for our kids, with a yummy taste that they will love and you will not have to fight them over. They manufacture in the USA with globally sourced ingredients that are each selected for optimal bioavailability and absorption. And the best part? They arrive straight to your door on a pediatrician recommended schedule, so you never have to worry about running out. Your first month comes with a reusable glass bottle that your kids can personalize with stickers. So in the case of my kids, with six of them, they never get them confused. And then every month after, Hiya sends a no plastic, eco friendly refill pouch of fresh vitamins. Which means that Hiya isn’t just good for your kids, it’s also great for the environment as well. So you as a mom no longer have to worry about running out of vitamins, and they will automatically arrive when you need them. You can check them out and get them for your kids by going to Hiyahealth.com/wellnessmama. And you’ll also save 50% on your first month.

I would actually love to talk about updates a little bit because I’ve gotten to know your daughter a little bit recently and she’s actually doing some work similar to what you’re doing in, but with the vaginal microbiome, which is another new and emerging area of research. And I think also very important to understanding this overall microbial environment of the body. So if you don’t mind speak a little bit and humble brag on your daughter a little.

Naveen: Well, actually, I’m going to have you, since you know about vaginal microbiome and how important it is to human health, I’m going to have you talk about it and I’m going to tell you about what does it take to be a great parent and how to raise children in a fluent family or even in a middle-class family that they really have this hunger to go out and do audacious things.

Katie: So briefly, I’ll touch on what she does and I’ll make sure there’s a link in the show notes. If you guys want to keep learning more, they have a lot of educational resources too. But I feel like this is an area of medicine that has been largely ignored for a long, long time, because for the majority of our recorded history, at least the majority of researchers and doctors were men. So it was a somewhat overlooked area.

But like we talked about earlier, we know that the mom’s microbiome, including her vaginal microbiome impacts a baby’s lifelong health. And so from my understanding, what your daughter’s doing is making testing available at home to the everyday person to understand what is going on in their own vaginal microbiome and how to improve it, just like we’ve talked about with the mouth, with the gut. And I feel like for women, this is a really important area that we now have access to understand at a deeper level. And that similarly will hopefully guide us in the direction of good practices that aren’t going to destroy our microbiome and that can help us improve it, which is especially important for anyone who’s considering having a baby. So that’s her product and her company. I’ll make sure it’s linked to as well.

But I know a purpose and a passion you and I both deeply share is the importance of raising kids who are kind and who are innovators and who also wanna help make the world a better place and that we’ve both taken some counterintuitive approaches to this and that we often get to compare notes on it. I would say for me, it comes from starting with a kind of skills up versus knowledge down approach and looking at what are the long-term goals, the things I hope to impart to them and then how do I best nurture that? And when we look at it through that lens, often the things that we would think to do as parents might not actually be the best approach. And so I try to focus on core qualities like creativity and thinking outside the box and asking good questions and letting their motivation come from within them versus me being their exogenous rule enforcer or motivation. But I love when you talk about this. So let’s shift gears and talk about parenting a little.

Naveen: So first of all, Katie, I have three children and my oldest is Angkor and he runs a company called B-I-L-T, B-I-L-T. And he essentially started this company, Bilt Rewards, for one simple reason. He thought that many of us who are renting a place will never ever build any equity. We are constantly keep wasting money away. So he thought, what if he can create a credit card that has no annual fee and you can pay the rent on a credit card and there’s no credit card fee, so you don’t have to pay or credit card fee. And you still earn the points on every single spend that you do. And you can use those points to actually pay the next month rent or you can use them to buy a home or you can use them one-on-one-on any airlines you want, right? Unbelievable what he did. And that company within a year is now worth over $1.5 billion. It’s processing over six billion already in less than one year because he took on this audacious idea that could help the whole middle class of the country. And he’s a Wharton grad.

And my daughter that you talked about, Priyanka, she went to Stanford. She’s the Stanford STEM fellow. She’s the Stanford Mayfield fellow. And the first company she did was actually use AI to remove the gender bias. And then she got really passionate about the women’s health. And what really got to her was once she realized that it’s not the researchers are all men. The women weren’t even allowed to be in the clinical research until ‘93. That means almost every drug that women takes today is never being tested on women. And there is no wonder that it works less on women. Women are diagnosed seven years later for the same disease. And the drugs have never actually tested on women that they even work on women. And she decided she was going to take on this challenge of women’s health. And she started with a vaginal microbiome. And the company is called Evvy. E as in Edward, V-V-Y, evvy.com. And… at home test for vaginal microbiome.

And what’s amazing is that women suffer through so many of the vaginal diseases, but they are ashamed to go talk about that, right? And she decided she’s gonna take the stigma off and really allow women to understand what is going on and create a network where they can now talk to a doctor with the results so they are able to actually tell you, this is what you need to do and this is what’s really going on. And it turns out the vaginal microbiome is the number one predictor of preterm birth. It’s the number one predictor of the health of the baby. In addition to obviously the gut health and the oral health, it is a key part of the women’s health at all.

And our youngest one, by the way, just to complete, is Neil. And he’s also a Stanford grad, and he’s a Schwarzman scholar. And he’s running a company called Velen, which essentially is completely rethinking how we buy homes and how we pay for our homes and mortgages. So really looking at all ends of the spectrum of making sure that they continue to focus on things that can help billions of people live a better life. Because I really believe the success is defined by not how much money you have in the bank, but how many people’s lives you touch. Now, coming back on the parenting side is that it’s counterintuitive. Everything that we believe we are doing it for them may actually be harming them. And we all believe that it is the enforcer rule of a parent, that taking them to the water and making them drink. And what I realized was our job as parents is to make them thirsty. And the way to make them thirsty is to make them intellectually curious. Once we create the curious kids, they find their own water, and they will drink. And that intellectual curiosity is created by allowing them to believe everything is possible.

So we talk about, even when, instead of reading them the story when they were young, I would ask them to tell me a story about three things that I could find that would never be connected together. And I would ask them to tell me a story about a monkey, an ocean, and a palm tree. And they have to now connect the things together that couldn’t be connected in the real world.

And the reason we did that was allow them to think that how desperate looking things can actually be connected. And it allows them to create new neural connection in their brain. So they will ask, OK, dad, now you get to tell me a story about a glass and a leaf and a tree. And how do you connect them all together? So point was that we will challenge each other to connect the things that are never connected.

Now similarly, the other part was redefining success for them. So let’s say we always told them their success will always be measured by how many lives they improve. We told them that their self-worth is not gonna come from what they own, but it comes from what they create. That means you could inherit a lot of money, but you’re still a parasite on society if you’re not doing anything to contribute back to the society, right? Other part that’s generally is most people, how would I say, call it very controversial. I feel that children want to see their parents as a role model. They don’t want to listen to what they have to say. They actually watch them do the things they do rather than tell them the things that they tell, right? So it is the children actually do what they see you do, not what you tell them. So if you say, hey, money doesn’t matter, and you’re constantly chasing money, they know, they see through that. If you make a lot of money and you say, look, I’m going to now sit at home and not do anything else instead of going out and continuing to improve the world. And then you tell them, hey, guess what? Our purpose in life to constantly improve the world, but I’m sitting at home watching CNBC. What happens is kids see through that. When they go to school, if they see the dad sitting at home watching CNBC, they come back from school, I tell them, go work hard. Hard work is what it takes. And by the way, they see the dad sitting at home watching CNBC. What are they thinking? I’m going to grow up just like my dad did.

Then Katie after my first company became wildly successful. I started the second company, the third company, and the fourth company. And then I said, we’re going to go to the moon and created Moon Express to settle and got a billion NASA contract. It started wild. Even the age of I wanted them to see, age doesn’t matter. You can take on an audacious challenge, even in the area that you may not know much about. And that’s really the feeling I wanted them to have. Just because they are non-experts, it is not their liability. Being a non-expert is their asset because they are able to challenge everything that the experts have taken it for granted. And that allows them to actually rethink, reimagine, and recreate something that no expert will do.

And I think this is probably the saddest thing to say is that it doesn’t matter how smart you are, kids mind, your parents will always be morons. And the fact is our kids will always say, oh my God, daddy’s not even that smart. If he can do this, we can do 10 times better. So let’s go take on even a bigger challenge than what daddy’s doing. And that to me is music to my ears. And the fact is you and I both have talked about it. Nothing brings us more joy to our life than to see our kids do some amazing things, not just make money, but really go out and do things that improve other people’s lives.

And I’ve met your kids, Katie, and all I can tell you that you have been an unbelievable mother. You have dedicated your life to helping them. You have dedicated your life to educating them in a way that not only they are kind and wonderful children, they are very smart and very curious children. And I met your son, and you know, I think he’s going to do some great things in life. And I can’t wait for him to come even to an internship with us, or to a met, you know, if I could mentor him, because I really think your kids one day are going to be not only in the news, they’re going to change the way people live their lives. I can’t wait to read about them and saying, God, I knew that they were still in diapers.

Katie: Oh, thank you. And I love that. I love that you’re ahead of me on the parenting curve so I can learn from you. And I love that we get to have these conversations and to echo your point, I think I’ve learned that lesson over and over as a mom, the importance of modeling and how, like you said, we can say things all day long, but it’s what we actually do that they pay attention to. And that’s the reason us focusing on our own health and fitness as adults is so important because that gives them permission to do it. It’s why us having our own curiosity and continuing to learn new things every single day is important because that gives them permission to do it.

And I like you approached the idea of parenting that they aren’t mine. I don’t own them in the least that they are each their own infinite autonomous beings that I get the honor of being their mom in this lifetime and to go on this journey with them. But at the end of the day, like you said, I hope that thirst comes from within them and not because they feel expectation of me, but because they have that curiosity and that desire to help people that hopefully they can learn through my example and through the example of so many other people and through amazing books and through friends like you. So I love that we always, no matter what, we always ended up getting in the topic of parenting. I think health is of course extremely important. And I would say parenting is equally important for those of us who have kids. So I love that we always get to go in that direction.

Also a couple of last questions that are extremely selfish for me because I always love learning from you. The first being: any book, a book or number of books that have had a profound impact on you personally, and if so, what they are and why.

Naveen: Well, you know, I read all types of books. And, you know, so these are going to be random books. I just finished reading a book called Existential Physics. And it talks about from a perspective of physics, when someone dies, are they still alive? And it’s just really thought provoking idea. Is there a soul? Is there a multiverse? So this really looks at all the things we normally ask each other. And what’s really interesting was that even if your grandmother you think is dead, if someone, and let’s assume she died years ago, when someone is actually watching Earth from hundred light years away, they’re still watching her walk because light takes years to reach them, and they’re still watching her in her mid-40s and actually mid-30s, having great time on Earth. As far as they are concerned, she’s still alive. So the idea of this, whether someone is alive or dead, whether they exist or don’t exist, do we as humans actually are, exist at all because we all know that we are made of atoms and atoms are made of electrons and protons, they’re made of quarts and basically we are a bundle of energy even though when we touch us we feel solid but we know it’s not, it is just energy and our haptic senses are fooling us. So anyway that’s a great book in terms of understanding from physics perspective what is there, what is not there.

The other book I read was Thousand Brains by Jeff Hawkins, and it really talks about how our human brain works. What’s really interesting in that book was, we always thought that our brain works like a neural network. It has multiple layers and each layer actually adds value to the previous layer. In this book, it talks about that every piece of our neocortex is a column, and each column can compute completely, and it basically does the probability statistics and votes to say, is this this or this? And it’s really the polling that’s happening in the brain that decides what is right and what is wrong. I thought it was a really interesting book.

The book, another book that I just finished reading is Why Sleep Matters by Matthew Walker, unbelievably great sleep scientist and really explains in great detail why sleep is so important and he’s connected sleep directly causatively to metabolic things like diabetes, obesity and cancer and many other diseases that can directly be related to people who actually get a lack of sleep and it can causatively not just association but causatively how these things all connect together. So I think it was just a really interesting book to see that why we try to believe that it’s a macho thing to do not to sleep but it’s really important for your health to actually get a good night’s sleep.

Katie: I will add all three of those to my reading list and also to the show notes for you guys listening. They’ll be at wellnessmama.fm along with links to Viome and Evvy and all the other things we’ve talked about. And lastly, Naveen, any parting advice for the listeners today that could be related to something we’ve talked about or entirely unrelated life advice?

Naveen: Well, I think to me is that never stop dreaming. And I think a lot of people around you will always start to bring you down and tell you, just because you’re a woman, you cannot do that. Just because you’re brown, you cannot do that. Just because you come from this poor background, you cannot do that. Or just because you have no knowledge of this industry, you cannot do that. The fact is, don’t let someone define who you are. The way I just, you know, for me is 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. You don’t need someone else’s approval for you to pursue your dreams. The dream’s so big that people think you’re crazy and always remember that you only fail when you give up and you, you know, your idea may or may not work, but every idea that does not work is simply a stepping stone to a different idea and a bigger idea. So my advice always is, you know… Fall in love with yourself, pursue your dreams, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do them.

Katie: I think that’s a perfect place to wrap up for today. Naveen, it’s always a pleasure to have a conversation with you. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing today.

Naveen: Thank you Katie, it’s always an honor and a pleasure and I always enjoy your positive energy and love talking about your children.

Katie: Oh, well, thank you. And thanks 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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