Probiotics vs. digestive enzymes

sauerkraut topped with green onions on a plate

Whether you’re suffering from occasional tummy turmoil (hello gas and bloating) or looking to become a gut health queen (or king), probiotics and digestive enzymes can both lend their support. But just because these two supplements target your gut, doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable. You may find that just one or both is right for you. Here are the details to help you decide:  

Probiotics 

You’ve probably heard about probiotics by now- tiny bacteria that live in your gut and do things like aid your digestion, immune health, mood, sleep, skin health and more. So, why is everyone suddenly talking about these tiny but mighty bacteria? Scientists have recently found a link between a healthy gut microbiome (that means your gut is lined with lot of different species of probiotics) and overall health. That means if you’re looking for a way to up your health game, probiotics can lend their support.  

They may also be particularly helpful if you’re someone who experiences occasional gas, bloating, or constipation. But before you go adding these beneficial bacteria to your shopping cart- do some research to find out what strain might right for you (Pssst…one of our dietitians did the research for you). Some strains may work better for you than others, depending on where you’re looking to get support (I.e. digestion, mood, vaginal health or all of the above).  

Our expert tip: when taking probiotic supplements, it’s best to combine it with a balanced, nutritious diet so the good bacteria can stay happy and thrive to provide all their good benefits to support your health. 

Digestive Enzymes 

Put simply: digestive enzymes help your body digest food. They are non-living proteins that aid in breaking down important nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and fats so your body is able to absorb all these vital nutrients (Ahem… if you’re going to eat all that kale, your body better make sure it’s going to cash in on the health benefits).  Digestive enzymes naturally occur in your body and are secreted primarily in your digestive tract, including your mouth, stomach, pancreas and small intestine.  

There are 3 main types of digestive enzymes, each playing a distinctive role in breaking down food: 

  • Amylase: breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars 
  • Protease: breaks down protein into amino acids 
  • Lipase: breaks down lipids (fats) into fatty acids 

While digestive enzymes are crucial to health, sometimes your body is unable produce enough of these enzymes to break down and absorb all the essential nutrients in your food, which can lead to a list of annoying post-meal feelings like bloating, gas, indigestion, stagnant food in your stomach, and irregularity. What’s more, if your body is unable to break down and absorb nutrients for a prolonged period of time, there’s a greater risk of not getting enough and becoming low in some essential vitamins and minerals.2  

Which one might be better for you? 

In short: it depends. Both probiotics and digestive enzymes support your gut in different ways. And while often interchanged, they each play a different role.  

Probiotics promote a healthy gut environment and digestive enzymes improve the process of digestion, potentially enhancing the absorption of certain nutrients and easing some digestive struggles.  

Benefits of probiotics 

  • Overall digestive health* 
  • Gas* 
  • Bloating* 
  • Mood*  
  • Vaginal health support* 
  • Skin health support* 
  • Immune health support* 
  • Irregularity (going too often or too little)* 

Benefits of digestive enzymes: 

  • Gas* 
  • Bloating* 
  • Indigestion* 
  • Slow digestion* 
  • Irregularity (feeling backed up frequently)* 

One last major difference between probiotics and digestive enzymes: While digestive enzymes are generally fast-acting and need to be taken after a full meal, probiotics take time to repopulate your microbiome so you need to take them consistently before you can get the full effect. Probiotics can be taken with or without food.  

How else can you support gut health? Read Dietary fiber: why it is so essential? 

 About Kendall:  

Kendall has a B.S. in Human Nutrition and Foods from West Virginia University and is registered as a Dietetic Technician with the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Prior to working with Persona Nutrition, she worked in the NICU at a hospital as a DTR.  Her goal is to share her knowledge of health and nutrition and to inspire others to be the best version of themselves.  

Do you have questions on how you may benefit from supplements? Reach out to one of our experts, or take Persona’s free nutrition assessment, and learn exactly what you need to take your wellness to the next level.       

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.       

This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.       

References:

  1. Marotta A, Sarno E, Del Casale A, et al. Effects of Probiotics on Cognitive Reactivity, Mood, and Sleep Quality. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:164. Published 2019 Mar 27. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00164 
  2. Patricia JJ, Dhamoon AS. Physiology, Digestion. [Updated 2022 Sep 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. 
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