By Stevie Wilson
And the heroes of gut heath.
Digestive enzymes vs. probiotics. What’s the difference? Is there even a difference?
Digestive enzymes and probiotics are similar, in the sense that they perform complementary functions. But they’re also quite different in terms of how they work.
At a very basic level: Enzymes are what help your body break down food, and probiotics are the “good” bacteria you can introduce to your diet to make your gut happier. And guess what? They work amazingly well together.
So, still have questions about this dream team? Let’s dive a little deeper.
What are Digestive Enzymes?
These little guys are microscopic chains of proteins (held together by amino acids) found all over your digestive tract. Your mouth, stomach, pancreas, and small intestine all have them — which speaks to how much work they do. And you need many different types to keep your digestion running properly.
Well, each individual type of enzyme caters to a specific food. Dairy. Fats. Carbohydrates. Fiber. The list goes on and on. If it’s edible, your body has an enzyme for it.
Each digestive enzyme targets specific molecules of the food and then gets to work breaking it down so the nutrients can then be absorbed into your bloodstream. Very helpful. And very necessary.
When molecules are broken down by any enzymes, they are effectively converted into something else that your body can readily use. For example, here are the big three:
- Amylase converts carbohydrates and starches into sugars for energy
- Lipase takes the fat and triglycerides you eat and converts them into essential fatty acids, used for an abundance of functions in the body
- Lactase targets lactose (a sugar found in dairy products) and converts it into other types of sugars – namely glucose and galactose
Every enzyme has a purpose, which is why it’s important to make sure your gut is readily stocked with all of the ones it needs to function properly. (That’s where supplements come in.)
When your body doesn’t have the tools (enzymes) it needs, that leads to food sensitivities.
Feeling bloated? Gassy? It could be that you need a little help with your enzymes. Stress, age, and poor nutrition can all be factors that lead to low enzyme production, but the good news is a supplement can help your body get back on track.
Now let's compare to its cousin supplement - probiotics.
What are Probiotics?
First off, probiotics are live microorganisms. But they’re anything but scary—they come in all types of fun shapes (like Ys) and do a big job of helping your body out.
We humans have a huge number of microorganisms that work symbiotically in and on our bodies (about 40 trillion in our gut alone) called our microbiome. And that’s including a whole range of different types— some good and some bad.
And when we talk about probiotic bacteria, we don’t mean the scary, visit-to-the-doctor-causing bacteria. We mean the helpful ones: the ones that help decrease the number of “bad” bacteria in your gut by replacing and improving the function of the good guys.
In short, they compete with the bad bacteria. When they win, it means more good guys, and more good stuff can happen, like a smoothly flowing digestive system
When you’re low on probiotics, you may experience low energy, immune health problems, bloating and gas, IBS, and skin issues like acne or eczema. It’s incredible how closely our overall health is tied to what’s going on in our gut — so probiotics deserve their hero status!
Are There Benefits to Taking Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes Together?
Absolutely! Probiotics and digestive enzymes are different things and do different things, so it’s totally OK to take them together. In fact, it’s a great idea — they work awesome as a team.
Here are just some of the benefit of taking digestive enzymes and probiotics together:
1. Super-Charge Your Gut
Your gut is where most of your immune system is managed, so if it isn’t happy you won’t be either.
Taking enzymes that your body is lacking means a) you’ll be able to digest food better and b) you’ll be able to get more from the food you eat. And we're all about efficiency.
Plus, your body doesn’t naturally create its own probiotics, so taking a supplement means you’re probably in better shape than without doing so. Studies suggest that probiotics help defend your body’s immunity by triggering natural defenses and creating a protective layer of bacteria in your gut.
2. Maximize Nutrient Absorption
Probiotics aren’t just doing their own thing — they can actually produce digestive enzymes of their own. In fact, they have the ability to create proper “teams” of enzymes that help completely break down a food molecule (many foods require several enzymes to do this) and help your gut absorb even more nutrients.
For example, Lactobacillus bacterium can help existing lactase enzymes by producing its own amount of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in dairy). In turn, this can contribute to more of the lactose molecule being broken down (or being done so more efficiently). The same goes for Bifidobacterium and molecules like fiber.
3. Curb Food Intolerance
When your body can’t digest something properly, it leads to trouble. Digestive enzymes work together with probiotics to give your body what it needs to break down and consume what you eat.
Studies have shown that people with lactose intolerance are able to digest dairy more successfully when they take a probiotic. Add in a digestive enzyme and you’ve got all the bases covered.
So, now that you’re an expert on the difference between digestive enzymes and probiotics, maybe it’s time to experience them for yourself. Lucky for you, we’ve got a few options.
Ora's organic, vegan probiotics include natural prebiotic fiber - to fuel the good bacteria! While Ora's organic digestive enzymes are plant-based, meaning you won't become reliant on them to have a happy gut, but they're definitely helping out with those unpleasant side effects.