How Our Second Brain Affects Mood, Immune Function, and Cognition: A Q&A With Naveen Jain

 How Our Second Brain Affects Mood, Immune Function, and Cognition: A Q&A With Naveen Jain

Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria and other microbes that communicate with your brain. This communication occurs in large part via the vagus nerve and is part of the gut-brain axis. These findings and more have earned our gut microbiome the nickname “the second brain.” 

Today, Naveen Jain, Founder of Viome, is here to help us understand how our second brain affects mood, immune function, and cognition. 

An Overview of The Gut Microbiome

Can you give us a high-level overview of the gut microbiome?

The microbiota is the entire collection of microbes living in and on the body. It forms a living layer over your skin and parts of the inside of your body, including the lungs and digestive tract, from the mouth all the way to the colon. When gut microbes are out of balance, your body can't absorb nutrients the way it should. The result is inflammation, the root of almost every chronic disease. Inflammation in your body has a tremendous impact on weight loss, digestive health, mental health, immune health, stress response, and even the way your body is aging internally. 

Get to Know Your Enteric Nervous System: The Brain in Your Gut

Can you tell us more about the gut-brain axis?

The brain controls most of the bodily functions by sending direct messages via our central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is made of an intricate system of nerves that travel down our spine and branch out through the body.

But your gut has a mind of its own, including its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system (ENS). Scientists often refer to this system as our “second brain.” This system is in constant communication with our CNS, sending messages back and forth. 

Many of these conversations consist of cognitive and emotional messages. That’s why when you’ve misplaced your wallet or your keys, you might feel a sense of anxiety that often manifests in your gut. 

Scientists have mounting evidence that microbial activity can:

  • Affect hormone signaling
  • Alter our intestinal permeability (i.e. cause leaky gut
  • Produce metabolites, helpful – or harmful – to our body
  • Affect our immune system (70% of our immune system is housed in the walls of our gut microbiome).

Direct changes in gut health can influence our behavior [and vice versa], and cause changes in our mood.

Gut Dysbiosis: How It Affects Our Mood

Can you talk to us about gut dysbiosis and how it affects our mood?

When we experience a wave of inflammation in our gut, many health specialists immediately think of one thing: gut dysbiosis. Dysbiosis could be defined as an imbalance between the types of organism present in a person's natural microflora, especially that of the gut, thought to contribute to a range of conditions of health.

Gut dysbiosis has been shown to produce a significant immune response. As inflammation reaches the central nervous system, it can interfere with signals being sent to the brain, inducing psychological distress. Reducing the inflammation being produced in the gut can improve its hold over our central nervous system, stabilizing our gut ecosystem. 

Reducing the inflammation being produced in the gut can improve its hold over our central nervous system, all by stabilizing your gut ecosystem.

Functional microbiome dysbiosis is very different from the microbiome dysbiosis often reported on in literature. Functional dysbiosis is a combination of a person’s diet and their microbiome. Given a person’s microbiome, consuming specific foods or supplements can protect a person from a leaky gut, while consuming other foods and supplements can lead to it. A functional gut microbiome test is essential for identifying leaky gut. Viome’s Gut Intelligence test is a comprehensive functional microbiome test.

The Leaky Gut Connection to Mood Imbalance

Can you explain to us how inflammation may lead to leaky gut syndrome?

The main cause of leaky gut syndrome is functional gut microbiome dysbiosis. Stress and acute intestinal infections can contribute to leaky gut in some people, as well. The inflammation response your body sends out can affect a variety of neurocognitive disorders as our brain is triggered to release proinflammatory cytokines and other chemicals that, in excess, can lead to mental health and mood disorders.

Some symptoms of leaky gut include but are not limited to:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog

Measuring Our Gut Microbiome Health

How can we accurately measure our gut microbiome health?

Viome’s Health Intelligence Test uses a stool and blood sample to analyze the microbial gene expressions and human gene expressions in an individual. We can see what your microbes are producing and whether it’s beneficial (nutrients) or causing inflammation (toxins). This test also allows us to see how your gut microbiome is impacting the “host” or human side of you, giving us a look into your cellular health, immune system health, biological age, and more. We can read “signals” the body sends out about the status of your gut health. Some other things your gut microbiome health can reveal about your diet and overall health are:

  • If you’re eating more protein than your gut microbiome can handle
  • If you’re eating too much salt
  • If a plant virus is causing inflammation in your gut
  • If spinach will impact your personal risk of kidney stones
  • If your cells are showing signs of stress
  • What’s making you gassy
  • If you need to go easy on the seafood
  • And so much more!

The Future of Microbiome Research

You have a large amount of data regarding the microbiome, what are some insights or patterns you see?

Progress in various ‘omics’ fields continues to develop the genome, transcriptome, proteome, metabolome, microbiome, epigenome, and exposome to create a holistic map of our biology and guide us to better health. 

The combination of this mapping, new approaches to gathering data, and artificial intelligence make our ability to personalize everything from diet and recommended lifestyle habits to medicine completely possible. Where before there was no way to make sense of the massive amounts of data in order to identify trends and patterns unique to an individual, technology today is allowing us to solve these problems much faster than ever before. 

This is exactly what Viome is able to do and why our test has become so valuable. Our AI makes it possible to identify patterns in an individual’s biology and map these patterns (scores) to precisely the nutrients that individual needs. Not only this, but we are also able to see if a person is trending away or towards a particular chronic disease.

Our research regarding the use of mRNA technology and state-of-the-art AI platforms to screen for oral cancer and throat cancer recently received FDA approval. We are excited to see where this data takes us.

Get to Know Naveen Jain, Founder of Viome

What is one biohack you cannot live without?
Viome’s Precision Supplements. I take mine every day and feel amazing. Following my Viome food recommendations has changed my life and my family’s.

What books are you reading right now?
Emeran Meyer’s The Gut-Immune Connection and The Whole-Body Microbiome by Brett Finlay.

Favorite quote?
Dream so big that people think you’re crazy and never be afraid to fail.

Do you consider yourself a good sleeper? When did you realize you were one? What helped you become a good sleeper?
I am a great sleeper! I noticed this when I realized that not many people wake up at 4am as excited for life as me. Becoming at peace and being happy with the things you do every day helps you fall asleep at night without trouble.

Walk us through your sleep routine from dinner until you hit the pillow. What devices, supplements/teas, tech, textiles, etc. do you use?
After dinner, I always meditate before I lay down to sleep. I’m not always a fan of rituals because I believe people become too obsessed with them and with technology (like sleep tracking devices) instead of listening to their body and being in the moment. 

Connect With Naveen Jain

To keep up with the very latest microbiome research follow Viome on Instagram and keep up with their latest articles. For a deeper exploration of creating a microbiome diet to optimize gut health be sure to listen to this podcast with Naveen. 

Ready to receive food and nutrient recommendations for your gut microbiome health and precise dosages for supplements, prebiotics, and probiotics based on your gut microbiome health? Purchase Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test™ using this link and take $10 off your order.

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