Free shipping with USA on orders $75 +. Use code: FREE75 (cannot be combined with other discounts or automatic shipments)

Search our Site

All Topics

Related Posts

Most Popular Blog Posts

Digestive Enzymes vs. Probiotics - Which are Better?

Digestive Enzymes vs. Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

Digestion comprises a complex series of processes that result in the breakdown of food, the absorption of nutrients and vitamins, and the excretion of any waste products. All of this starts at your mouth as your teeth and saliva break food into smaller particles and ends at your anus.1 

Digestive enzymes and probiotics are involved in this complex process of digestion. Digestive enzymes help break down food and probiotics interact with the broken down pieces of food, using it to form vitamins and to interact with the digestive and immune systems.

Considering all the different organs and processes involved with digestion, it’s easy to see how things could go wrong or not operate according to plan. A reported 60 to 70 million people in the United States are affected by a digestive disease or disorder of some kind according to National Institute of Health. These diseases range from hepatitis to irritable bowel syndrome to diverticular disease.2 Even those without stomach disorders can suffer from momentary abdominal issues, like gas, bloating, and indigestion. 

Thankfully, you can find a wide range of solutions to support your digestive health, ensuring that you get the most out of your food while neutralizing any pain or discomfort that might put a damper on your everyday livelihood. Two types of supplements commonly used are digestive enzymes and probiotics. While both may have some similar effects, they operate under different mechanisms. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between probiotics and digestive enzymes.

Digestive Enzymes vs. Probiotics

 

Probiotics

Digestive Enzymes

Definition

Microorganisms that live in your gut to keep the bad bacteria out

Proteins that break down foods that you eat

Living organisms

X

 

Supports Digestive Health

x

x

Better for gas & bloating

 

x

Better for diarrhea

x

 

Should be taken with antibiotics

x

 

Better to take with food intolerances

 

x

Naturally exists in the body

x

x

Better for constipation and diarrhea

x

 

Better for reflux

 

x


Should You Take Digestive Enzymes with Probiotics?

Enzymes are proteins, while probiotics are bacteria (and certain yeasts). Digestive enzymes are generally relegated to supporting your digestive health. Growing studies suggest that probiotics can go beyond your digestive health and help to maintain a variety of components and processes important to your personal health. 

Ultimately, you can take both to help your health and wellness. Both are generally safe with little to no side effects. When combined, the two can work together to maintain good digestion. If you find yourself suffering occasional bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort, combining regular digestive enzymes and probiotics can help to return some peace to your gut. Whether you go with foods or supplements, make sure you get a diverse blend of enzymes and probiotics to keep your gut happy and healthy. 

What are Digestive Enzymes? 

Your body produces many natural digestive enzymes on its own to help break down food and absorb all the nutrients that they hold. Some of these digestive enzymes come from your mouth, stomach, and small intestine, but the majority of your digestive enzymes are created in your pancreas. When food reaches your small intestine, the pancreas secretes a variety of enzymes, including: 

  • Amylase to break down carbs and starches
  • Lipase to break down lipids (fats)
  • Proteases and peptidases to break down proteins 

Sometimes the body doesn’t produce enough digestive enzymes. This makes it harder for your digestive system to break down food. Not having enough enzymes in the stomach will slow down digestion and the movement of food from your stomach to your intestines. An enzyme deficiency will also cause gas and bloating. Without enzymes, undigested and unabsorbed food makes its way to the microbe-rich environment of the large intestine where it ferments and produces gas. 

A common example involves milk and lactase. Lactase is the digestive enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose, the main sugar in milk and other dairy products. The body produces less and less lactase as you get older. It becomes less able to break down and absorb lactose which causes lactose you consume to end up in the colon. There, the sugar is fermented by bacteria, producing gas. The sugar also causes fluids to stay in the colon instead of being absorbed, causing diarrhea in addition to gas. These are all the usual symptoms of lactose intolerance (gas, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pains). 

The two main sites of digestive enzyme production is the stomach and the pancreas. Problems with these organs can lead to problems digestion including but not limited to: chronic proton-pump-inhibitor use, gastritis, gastric bypass surgery, H. pylori infection, pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and pancreatectomy. Digestive enzymes are commonly prescribed to patients without a pancreas to help them digest food. 

Digestive Enzyme Supplements 

Digestive enzymes are also available as over the counter supplements. Digestive enzyme supplements supply your body with additional digestive enzymes to help you digest. They should be taken with each meal to help with the proper break down and digestion of food. Enzymes from supplements often come from animal pancreases or plant sources, including fruits, molds, yeasts, and fungi. 

Many prescription enzymes contain pancrelipase (brand name CREON®), which is a mixture of amylase, lipase, and protease. These pills are also covered with a special coating that ensures that they can withstand your stomach acids and make it safely to your small intestine. 

Foods Containing Digestive Enzymes

Along with a digestive enzyme supplement, you may consider eating certain foods that naturally contain enzymes that can help to support your digestive health. Some common foods that contain digestive enzymes include: 

  • Pineapples – Pineapples are rich in a class of enzymes known as bromelain, a protease that can help to break down proteins. Bromelain is also often available on its own. One study suggests that taking bromelain with a general digestive enzyme supplement may offer more benefits than taking a digestive enzyme on its own.4
  • Papaya – Papayas contain another type of protease called papain. One study found that papaya may help to ease certain symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome on top of other functional disturbances.5
  • Raw honey – Honey contains a variety of digestive enzymes, including amylase, protease, diastase (for breaking down starches), and invertase (for breaking down sucrose).6 Unfortunately, most honey has been heated which denatures and destroys the digestive enzymes in them.
  • Bananas – While best known for their potassium content, bananas also contain amylase and glucosidases, which can both help to break down carbs into smaller, more readily absorbed sugars.7 

What are Probiotics? 

Your gut is one of the most complex systems in your body, home to a rich variety of bacteria, yeasts, and other microbes known collectively as the gut microbiome. The human gut microbiome contains about 1,000 different known species of bacteria, and put together, they function as an extra organ in your body that can contribute a wide variety of potential benefits and effects. They prominently help with the digestion and break down of food and the absorption of nutrients, but these helpful bacteria are also implicated in supporting and maintaining your immune system. Some studies even suggest that your gut flora play a key role in your brain health and are capable of communicating with your central nervous system via your gut-brain axis.10 

This axis or signaling pathway is thought to involve chemical signaling molecules called cytokines. Depression has been linked to increased levels of inflammatory markers and inflammation in the body.16 Exposure to pro-inflammatory microbes in the gut will cause the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines that travel to other places in the body and manifest as mood disorders and surprisingly, acne.17 

While a healthy gut often has a larger number of probiotics, certain environmental factors can potentially cause an imbalance that allows the harmful microbes to outnumber the good. This is known as dysbiosis, which can be caused by: 

  • Dietary changes
  • Heightened levels of anxiety or stress
  • Bad dental hygiene
  • Antibiotics and other medications that may kill good bacteria 

Minor imbalances may lead to mild, temporary symptoms, like general stomach pain, but major dysbiosis can lead to a whole host of digestive disorders and general health issues. For example, some studies suggest that gut dysbiosis can contribute to weight gain.11 Other studies suggest that problems with your gut flora can play a role in irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and other digestive disorders.12 

probiotics vs digestive enzymes

Using Probiotics

If your gut flora is suffering an imbalance, you can help to return some harmony by eating probiotic-rich foods or taking a probiotic supplement. Probiotic foods contain live bacteria or yeast cultures and usually comprise foods that have been fermented, including: 

  • Yogurt – Potentially the most popular probiotic food, yogurt is made using milk and friendly bacteria (usually Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria). However, it’s important to know that not all yogurt contains live bacteria. Some yogurt has undergone pasteurization, which kills off both good and bad bacteria in the process. If you want probiotic yogurt, look specifically for labels that denote “live and active cultures.”
  • Kimchi – A spicy fermented vegetable dish most commonly made from cabbage, kimchi contains a variety of Lactobacillus
  • Kefir – Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from Lactobacilli and yeast cultures.
  • Sauerkraut – Sauerkraut is made from shredded cabbage that has been fermented with Lactobacilli.13 

However, probiotic foods can come with allergies and other problems, which is why it may be better for you to take a probiotic supplement. If you go with a supplement, make sure you take one with at least 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs). This is essentially the number of viable cells in a supplement. 

Improving Your Gut Bacteria

Along with probiotic foods and supplements, you can improve your gut bacteria by: 

  • Eating a diverse range of foods to support a diverse microbiota
  • Avoiding artificial sweeteners and added sugars
  • Eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes
  • Eating more whole grains 

It may also help to consume more fiber and prebiotic foods. Prebiotic foods help to feed your existing gut bacteria, which allows them to grow and thrive.15 

Sources:

  1. https://www.livescience.com/22367-digestive-system.html
  2. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/digestive-diseases
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/gut-reaction-a-limited-role-for-digestive-enzyme-supplements
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4919118
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23524622
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-digestive-enzymes#section4
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12358438
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25287168
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-microbiome-and-health
  10. https://psychscenehub.com/psychinsights/the-simplified-guide-to-the-gut-brain-axis/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912499
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912499
  13. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-super-healthy-probiotic-foods
  14. https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/how-many-cells-or-cfus-should-my-probiotic-have/probiotic-cells-CFU/
  15. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/improve-gut-bacteria
  16. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1471490605002887
  17. https://gutpathogens.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1757-4749-3-1

Related Posts

Most Popular Blog Posts