Digestive Enzymes vs. Probiotics: What's the Difference?
Your body is designed as a highly intricate and perfect system. In its most natural (undamaged) state, all the elements work seamlessly together, allowing you to function properly as a healthy human being.
Your digestive system alone is an incredibly complicated structure, where dozens of digestive “ingredients” must collaborate so that the food and drink you consume can travel through roughly 30 feet of digestive tract -- a process that can take nearly 24 hours -- and the nutrients can be broken down and absorbed in order to really benefit the body.
Digestive enzymes are vital in this complicated process -- especially when combined with other essential “ingredients” like probiotics. Enzymes can help us to maintain a healthy digestive system, which is crucial for our overall health.
But aren’t digestive enzymes and probiotics the same thing? Well, not exactly. Although often used interchangeably, enzymes and probiotics are two totally different things. Interested in learning more? We’ve got you covered! Read on to learn everything you need to know about digestive enzymes and probiotics, as well as why we need both.
Let’s dive in!
Digestive Enzymes 101
Most people would find it quite challenging to try and explain digestion without describing the part that enzymes play. They are actually very different from probiotics, though the two do have a close relationship.
Digestive enzymes are non-living, protein-based molecules that have their own unique shape and are found all over our bodies. Each enzyme has an ‘active site’ designed to attract and connect with other specific molecules, similar to a lock and key.
Just as we all have different jobs and purposes in life, so do digestive enzymes. However, their key role is to break down different types of food molecules into their ‘building block’ components so they can be absorbed easily through the gut wall and into the bloodstream for utilization.
Digestive enzymes fall into three main categories:
- Protease enzymes: Speeds up the process of breaking proteins into amino acids.
- Amylase enzymes: Turns carbs into simple sugars for your body’s immediate use.
- Lipase enzymes: Breaks down fatty foods into fatty acids for your body to store for energy.
Without these critical enzymes, digesting food could take hundreds of years! Ensuring that you have the proper balance of digestive enzymes is crucial to a healthy gut biome. When your body doesn’t have the enzymes it needs, that leads to food sensitivities.
Gassy? Feeling bloated? It could be that you need a little help with your enzymes. Age, stress, 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 enzymes to their cousin -- probiotics.
First and foremost -- the gut microbiome is essentially our collection of gut microbes (i.e. microscopic organisms) that line our digestive tract. These tiny microbes -- existing in the trillions -- directly impact our body, digestion, and overall health. In fact, new research suggests that our gut bacteria even influence our cognition, brain, and even our emotional behavior.
Within these trillions of tiny microbes, some are considered very beneficial, while others may be harmful in large quantities. The “good” bacteria perform essential functions or release compounds that positively impact our overall health. These beneficial bacteria populations also help to keep the “not-so-good” bacteria in check to prevent them from over-populating to an amount that may cause illness or unwanted symptoms.
Our gut bacteria populations impact the health of our delicate microbiome directly, which heavily impacts the health of our immune system.
Okay, so what is a probiotic?
A probiotic is a powerful supplement that contains strains of healthy bacteria designed to populate the gut microbiome.
For instance, if your gut microbiome has been assaulted by stress, illness, or even a round of antibiotics, "good" bacteria that previously existed may have been destroyed. Therefore, taking a probiotic supplement like Good Girl Probiotics from Love Wellness can reintroduce beneficial strains of bacteria to restore the health and balance of your gut microbiome and help prevent unwanted side effects of a depleted gut microbiome.
However, even if you haven’t undergone an assault on your microbiome, taking a quality probiotic supplement can introduce healthy bacterial strains which can increase the diversity of your gut microbiome. Increasing the diversity and amount of beneficial gut microbes can help immensely to elevate your physical and mental health!
Are There Benefits to Taking Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes Together?
Absolutely! Digestive enzymes and probiotics are different things and do different things -- so it is totally okay to take them together. In fact, it’s a great idea because they work awesome as a team. Here are just some of the incredible benefits of taking probiotics and digestive enzymes together:
Super-Charge Your Immune System
Your gut is where much of your immune system is managed -- so if it isn’t happy, you simply won’t be either! Fueling up on enzymes that your body is lacking means you will be able to digest food better, and you will be able to get more nutrients from the food you eat. And we’re all about efficiency!
Plus, your body doesn’t naturally create its own probiotics, so taking a top-notch supplement means you are probably in better shape than without doing so. In fact, studies suggest that probiotics help support your body’s immune response by triggering natural defenses and creating a protective layer of bacteria in your gut -- thank you, probiotics!
Curb Food Intolerance
When your body struggles to digest something, it leads to trouble. Digestive enzymes work together with probiotics to give your body what it needs in order to break down and digest what you eat.
Studies have shown that those with lactose intolerance may be able to digest dairy more successfully when you take a probiotic supplement. If you’ve had to break up with dairy, it’s possible adding in a powerful digestive enzyme may help you become friends again.
Maximize Nutrient Absorption
Probiotics aren’t just doing their own thing -- they can actually produce digestive enzymes of their own. As a matter of fact, they have the ability to create proper “teams” of enzymes that help completely break down food molecules and help your gut absorb even more nutrients.
For instance, Lactobacillus bacterium can help existing lactase enzymes by producing its own amount of lactase (the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose in dairy). In turn, this can contribute to more of the lactose molecule being broken down more efficiently. The same goes for Bifidobacterium and molecules like fiber.
So, what’s the difference between digestive enzymes and probiotics, you ask?
They are similar in that they both aid the intricate digestive process. However, probiotics and digestive enzymes are not the same.
Digestive enzymes are tiny molecules that aid in the breakdown of the foods we eat. Probiotics, on the other hand, are living microorganisms that live in our gut and positively affect our digestive processes. Both digestive enzymes and probiotics are vital to our digestive health and perform complementary functions -- hence why you sometimes see them included in the same supplements!
Digestive enzyme supplements can be especially helpful for those struggling with uncomfortable symptoms such as constipation, acid reflux, nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, and food sensitivities, bloating, gas, and other GI discomforts.
There are many different digestive enzyme supplements on the market, but we’re pretty proud of our very own Bye Bye Bloat. Each capsule is packed with organic ginger, organic fenugreek, organic dandelion root, and powerful digestive enzymes to get rid of pesky water weight, aid the digestive system, and tackle hormonal and food-related bloating.
To amplify this powerful supplement, we recommended taking Good Girl Probiotics -- a quality probiotic that maintains a balanced vaginal pH and healthy levels of vaginal yeast and bacteria. Made with eight strains of good bacteria for vaginal health, whereas most probiotics on the market today only contain one, this unique supplement supports three key areas: reproductive health organs, the gut, and the immune system.
Love Wellness takes a sensible approach to self-care that is body-positive, based in science, and made with what you want in mind. For all of your health and wellness needs, Love Wellness has your back!
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