When you’ve developed problems with your digestion, your gut reaction (no pun intended) may be to work out the kinks in your diet or turn to a supplement that can help get you back on track. Probiotics and digestive enzymes are two options to consider, but for very different reasons.
So what’s the main difference between digestive enzymes vs probiotics, and how do you know when to reach for one over the other? Read on to learn more about digestive enzymes vs probiotic supplements.
Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics: What’s the Difference?
Probiotics and digestive enzymes play important roles in proper digestion, but they’re very different. At its core, digestive enzymes are the naturally occurring proteins in your body that are designed to break down your food and help with the digestive process.
Morgan Denhard, a registered dietitian, explains the process in an article for Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“When you eat a meal or a snack, digestion begins in the mouth,” shares Denhard. “Our saliva starts breaking down food right away into a form that can be absorbed by the body. There are a lot of different points in the digestive process where enzymes are released and activated.”
When we think about the gut, it’s important to think about it as the entire gastrointestinal system. It includes the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus, as well as the salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Digestive enzymes naturally occur in the stomach, small intestine, and pancreas - where they’re working their hardest to aid digestion. So while digestive enzymes are designed to aid digestion like probiotics, they’re designed to break down food components, and probiotics are not.
Probiotics are live bacteria that aid the digestive process. They help to restore and maintain the natural balance of bacteria within the gut, which may occur because of diet and lifestyle factors like:
- Poor sleep habits
- Stress levels
- Alcohol consumption
- Lack of exercise, and physical activity
Its important to keep in mind antibiotics and medication can also negatively affect the microbiome community.
Probiotics and digestive enzymes are both highly valuable to the digestive system, but they are not one and the same. Digestive enzymes break down the foods we eat, and probiotics impact the physiological processes of the body:
“Sometimes people confuse enzymes and probiotics. Both affect your digestion but in very different ways. Probiotics are live organisms that make up the good bacteria in your gut. They help keep your digestive tract healthy, so they support the work your enzymes do. Unlike enzymes, probiotics do not have the ability to break down or digest food components.”
Probiotics vs Digestive Enzymes: Understanding the Benefits
Digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins from food so that the body can properly digest the food and absorb the nutrients. When the digestive enzymes aren’t present, the body doesn’t make proper use of the nutrients, and they essentially go to waste during digestion. Digestive enzymes ensure that your body can maintain optimal health and wellness. Because digestive enzymes help to break down food, they can be beneficial in relieving symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, or general stomach discomfort.
Adding a probiotic supplement, or incorporating more probiotic-rich foods into your diet, is a simple way to balance the bacteria in your gut. Probiotics contain enzymes that humans don't, while most digestive enzymes are human enzymes.The absence of probiotics can lead to a weakened immune system, gastrointestinal issues, and other obstacles that keep you from reaching your ultimate health wellness. When you add probiotics back into your system, you can benefit from improved immune function, protection from harmful bacteria, enhanced digestion, and much more.
Digestive Enzymes vs. Probiotics: Choosing the Best Option for You
The body naturally makes digestive enzymes, but you may consider an over-the-counter supplement if you’re experiencing acid reflux, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. The supplementation can help with the process of breaking down the food for digestion. Beyond supplementation, you can also consider raw fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods that provide natural enzymes, such as kiwi, bananas, avocados, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
You may consider choosing a probiotic supplement over digestive enzymes if you want to prioritize holistic health, ultimately improving your immune system, aiding better sleep, and increasing energy levels.
Nella by FitBiomics is one way to get your gut health back in check, optimizing your gut microbiome to a balanced state and laying the foundation for overall wellness. Within weeks of taking Nella, you’ll notice a change in your digestion and sleep patterns. Within months, you should feel more energized and focused. And these results will only get better with time.
Trust your gut. Learn more about Nella today.
WRITTEN BY: Marina Santiago, PhD
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
|Dr. Santiago has a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology from the Microbiology and Immunobiology Department of Harvard Medical School, but she has been fascinated by microbes and microbial communities for as long as she can remember. She works as an independent R&D strategy consultant and helps companies create and use evidence-based frameworks for making strategy decisions as well as helping them launch new programs or initiatives. Dr. Santiago is also passionate about fitness and the outdoors. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, and backpacking very long distances, as well as slowly getting better at yoga, Muay Thai, and Jiu Jitsu.|