Enzymes or probiotics? Which is more beneficial to our health? While both are indispensable for digestive health, they both have separate characteristics that make them unique. Both of them operate in the same system but have different functions.
If you think probiotics only exist in a yogurt that Jamie Lee Curtis promotes then let us catch you up to speed. Probiotics are live, friendly microorganisms that confer some sort of health benefit. They are present in many foods (like yogurts) and they do most of their work in the small and large intestines. In the small intestine, they aid in immune support. In the large intestine probiotics support digestive health. These microorganisms influence health and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. They don’t necessarily digest food, but they aid in improving nutrient utilization in the resident microflora. Our bodies contain good bacteria that keep the GI environment clean and operating correctly. Without probiotics, these bacteria do not work as effectively and that is when digestive issues occur. Probiotics naturally exist in a very limited amount of foods so it is very likely that most of us aren’t getting our daily dose from our diets alone.
Some specific health benefits of probiotic supplementation include:
- Diarrhea treatment
- Improved brain functioning
- Improved Cholesterol (lowering LDL)
- Improved blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome treatment
- Fights against infection
- Possible improvements for patients with psoriasis and chronic fatigue syndrome
Digestive enzymes are produced and secreted by the GI system to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to accomplish digestion and the absorption of nutrients. They work across the entire GI system in both, the large and small intestines. They initiate the digestive process by breaking down food into smaller particles. There are multiple variations and strains of digestive enzymes that are responsible for breaking down certain food groups. Amylase is an enzyme that is released in the mouth that degrades carbohydrates. Similarly, the mouth releases lipase that is responsible for fat break down. As we move through the GI tract, the stomach produces proteases and
cellulases. Each aid in digestion of proteins and fibrous materials in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, respectively. Lastly, the pancreas releases specialized enzymes that further digest all that we intake. Without these enzymes we would never be able to absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat. Digestive enzymes also provide significant support for food intolerance. Since digestive
enzymes are naturally occurring in our bodies, you may be wondering where the supplement forms come from. Digestive enzyme supplements can be sourced from many plants and animals. Essentially, enzymes are proteins in our bodies that aid in food break down. Very different from probiotics, digestive enzymes are essential and necessary for digestion. But if they already exist in our bodies, why do we need to take a digestive enzyme supplement? If you are someone who suffers digestive conditions or just wants overall improved digestive function, then digestive enzymes may be helpful to you.
Some specific health benefits of digestive enzyme supplementation include:
- Soothes digestive stress/indigestion
- Improves immune function
- Improves overall digestive function
- Aids in treatment of pancreatitis
We can’t really argue that one is better than the other, but one thing is for sure, both digestive enzymes and probiotics are crucial to prime digestive functioning. If you want to make a small adjustment to better your overall digestive health, consider taking a supplement for one or both of these. Here’s to having great gut health!