Happy Gut, Happy Life: Philippine Digestive Health Week

Your gut is an amazing organ. It’s often called the”second brain” because it contains more than 100 million neurons, making it more complex than most people realize. The gastrointestinal tract is where food enters your body, nutrients are absorbed, waste products are expelled, and immune responses happen.

It contains millions of neurons and trillions of microorganisms that work together to produce hormones and neurotransmitters, which can influence everything—from your immune system to your brain function, metabolism, weight, and mood.

When your gut is unhappy, it can cause inflammation and disease in other body parts. It can also make you feel anxious, depressed, or angry, which is why we call it “gut instinct” when we get a feeling about something.

A happy gut means that your intestinal lining is healthy and can absorb nutrients from food properly, leading to better overall health for you.

Many factors, including stress and diet, can cause gut problems. Some people are more prone to gut issues, especially those with a history of allergies or autoimmune disorders.

If you suspect that your gut health is compromised, here are several symptoms to watch out for:

Bloating:  Often due to trapped air, bloating can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. It’s very common, especially after eating a meal high in fibre or carbohydrates.

Irregular bowel movements (ten or fewer per week): When bowel movements are infrequent, this can lead to constipation. Symptoms include straining during bowel movements, hard stools, and a feeling of incomplete bowel movements.

Unexplained weight gain or loss: A compromised gut system can disrupt the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, leading to unexplained weight changes.

Fatigue and irritability: The gut produces neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, that regulate mood and behavior. If the gut system is compromised, this can lead to imbalances, resulting in feelings of fatigue and irritability.

Food cravings and binge eating: The gut regulates appetite and food intake. When the gut system is compromised, this can lead to imbalances in hunger hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin, resulting in food cravings and binge eating.

Leaky gut syndrome: When the gut barrier, the thin membrane that separates the digestive tract from the rest of the body, becomes damaged or weakens due to inflammation, food particles can leak into our bloodstream instead of being absorbed into the body. This triggers an immune response, leading to allergies and other problems.

The top digestive diseases in the country

Digestive diseases are prevalent in the Philippines, and the top five most common conditions include:

Liver cancer

Liver cancer is one of the most prevalent digestive diseases in the Philippines. It occurs when the liver cells begin to grow uncontrollably and form tumors. Risk factors for liver cancer in the Philippines include hepatitis B and C infections, alcohol abuse, and a diet high in saturated fat.

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer affects the colon or rectum. As the third most common cancer in the Philippines, its risk factors include a diet high in red and processed meats, smoking, and a lack of physical activity.

Peptic ulcer disease

Peptic ulcer disease is a condition that affects the stomach or small intestine. It is caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori and excessive use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen. Symptoms of peptic ulcer disease include abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea.


Diarrhea is a common digestive disorder when the body excretes more fluids than it absorbs. Infections, food intolerances, and certain medications can cause it. Symptoms include loose or watery stools, abdominal pain, and dehydration.

Stomach ulcer

The lining of the stomach can develop sores called ulcers. Symptoms of ulcers include abdominal pain, bloating and nausea.

Habits to cultivate for gut health

Eat a balanced and diverse diet: By following a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, you can help to promote good bacteria in your gut. Diverse foods in your diet are also key to a healthy microbiome.

Limit processed and high-sugar foods: Processed foods and those high in sugar can promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, leading to inflammation and other digestive issues. Limiting these types of foods can help support a healthy microbiome. Probiotic foods such as yogurt and kimchi can help promote a healthy microbiome by limiting the growth of harmful bacteria.

Manage stress: Stress can disturb the balance of bacteria in your gut, causing it to become unhealthy. Stress management techniques such as yoga and meditation can help keep the gut healthy.

Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help keep your digestive system running smoothly by keeping your bowels moving regularly and reducing inflammation in the gut.

Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation can disrupt the gut microbiome, leading to digestive problems. Get restful sleep to maintain optimal gut health.

Avoid antibiotics unless necessary: Antibiotics can kill the helpful bacteria in your gut, causing digestive issues. Take antibiotics only when necessary and finish the entire course of treatment to prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria from developing.

What to do when there are digestive health issues

Many people suffer from digestive health issues, but they are often confused about what they can do to improve their situation.

The first step is to seek medical attention and ensure that no underlying medical condition is causing your discomfort. Your healthcare provider may perform blood, stool, endoscopy, or imaging tests. In terms of treatment, it may involve medication, dietary changes, probiotics, or surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.

In support of the Philippine Digestive Health Week, it is high time for every Filipino to understand their health and how to manage it. We urge everyone to learn about digestive disease symptoms, causes, and treatment options. With greater awareness, we can find ways to beat these diseases.