Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics: What are the Differences?

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Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics are two popular supplements for improving digestive health, which is crucial for overall well-being. It affects our ability to extract nutrients from food, maintain a healthy weight, and even impact our mood. While they are often used interchangeably, probiotics and digestive enzymes have different functions and sources.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between probiotics and digestive enzymes and which one is suitable for you.

What Are Digestive Enzymes? Where Do They Come From?

Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics

Digestive enzymes are substances that help break down food in the digestive tract. They are produced naturally by the body and can also be found in certain foods. There are three main types of digestive enzymes:

  • Proteases: break down proteins into smaller peptides and amino acids
  • Lipases: break down fats into fatty acids and glycerol
  • Amylases: break down carbohydrates into simple sugars

Digestive enzymes are produced in various parts of the digestive system, including the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and small intestine. When food is ingested, the body releases digestive enzymes to help break it down and make it easier to absorb nutrients.

Fewer Digestive Enzymes, More Digestive Discomforts

Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics

When there are fewer digestive enzymes in the body, the digestion of food can become less efficient, leading to digestive discomforts such as bloating, gas, and constipation.

Digestive enzymes are responsible for breaking down the macronutrients in food (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and used by the body. Without enough digestive enzymes, the body may not be able to fully break down and absorb the nutrients from food.

There are many factors that can lead to lower levels of digestive enzymes, including age, stress, and certain health conditions. For example, as we age, our bodies may produce fewer digestive enzymes, which can contribute to age-related digestive issues.

Probiotics and Digestive Health

Probiotics are directly related to digestive health and gut function because they are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the digestive system. This balance is essential for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, as well as for overall gut health.

When there is an imbalance in the gut microbiome, it can lead to digestive issues and other health problems. Probiotics can help restore this balance by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

What are probiotics? Click to find out more!

Probiotics vs Digestive Enzymes: Snapshot of Their Differences

Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics

Probiotics and digestive enzymes are two different supplements that can benefit the digestive system in different ways.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are beneficial for the gut microbiome. They are typically found in fermented foods or can be taken as supplements. Probiotics work by introducing good bacteria into the gut, which helps to balance the gut microbiome and support overall digestive health.

Digestive enzymes, on the other hand, are proteins that help to break down the food we eat into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and used by the body. Digestive enzymes can be obtained from food or supplements and are particularly helpful for those with digestive issues or deficiencies in natural enzyme production.

While both probiotics and digestive enzymes can be beneficial for digestive health, they work in different ways and have different effects on the body. Probiotics focus on promoting a healthy gut microbiome, while digestive enzymes help to break down food for optimal nutrient absorption.Probiotics can help to improve enzyme production and activity within the gut, ultimately leading to better digestion and nutrient absorption. 

Here is a snapshot of their differences:

Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics
Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics

How to get more probiotics and digestive enzymes? 

Probiotics and digestive enzymes can be obtained through a variety of food sources and supplements. Here are some ways to increase your intake of these beneficial substances:

  1. Eat probiotic-rich foods: Probiotics are live bacteria that can be found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso. Incorporating these foods into your diet can help increase the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut.
  2. Take a probiotic supplement: Probiotic supplements are available in capsule, tablet, and powder form. These supplements contain various strains of live bacteria that can help improve digestion and boost your immune system.
  3. Consume digestive enzyme-rich foods: Digestive enzymes are proteins that help break down food into smaller molecules that can be absorbed by the body. Foods that are high in digestive enzymes include papaya, pineapple, mango, avocado, and fermented vegetables.
  4. Take a digestive enzyme supplement: Digestive enzyme supplements are available in capsule or tablet form and can be taken with meals to aid in the digestion of food. These supplements contain various types of enzymes, such as proteases, amylases, and lipases, which help break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, respectively.

Which should you take? Can we take them together?

Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics

Whether you should take digestive enzymes or probiotics, or both, depends on your specific digestive needs and health goals.

Digestive enzymes can be particularly helpful for those who have difficulty breaking down and digesting certain foods, such as protein or carbohydrates. They can also be useful for those with digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or pancreatic insufficiency.

On the other hand, probiotics are beneficial for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome and can help improve digestion, boost immunity, and reduce inflammation. They may be particularly helpful for those who experience digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.

If you feel that you could benefit from both digestive enzymes and probiotics, it is generally safe to take them together. In fact, some digestive enzyme supplements also contain probiotics to further support digestive health. However, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medication, to ensure that they are safe for you to use and to determine the appropriate dosage.

Read more: The Best Time of Day to Take Probiotics: Why it Matters?

Top 10 foods that contain natural digestive enzymes

Here are 10 foods that contain natural digestive enzymes:

  1. Pineapple – contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme that can break down protein and aid in digestion.
  2. Papaya – contains papain, a digestive enzyme that can break down protein and help with inflammation.
  3. Mango – contains amylase, a digestive enzyme that can break down carbohydrates.
  4. Kiwi – contains actinidin, a digestive enzyme that can break down protein.
  5. Ginger – contains zingibain, a digestive enzyme that can help with inflammation and break down proteins.
  6. Avocado – contains lipase, a digestive enzyme that can break down fats.
  7. Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage that contains enzymes that can aid in digestion.
  8. Kimchi – fermented vegetables that contain digestive enzymes and probiotics.
  9. Kefir – fermented milk that contains digestive enzymes and probiotics.
  10. Miso – fermented soybean paste that contains digestive enzymes and probiotics.

Incorporating these foods into your diet can help improve digestion and provide natural sources of digestive enzymes.

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