What are the benefits of digestive enzymes and probiotics? Is one more important than the other? The fact is you need both for good health. Read on to find out the benefits of digestive enzymes vs. probiotics and why you need both digestive enzymes and probiotics.
What are Digestive Enzymes?
Digestion is when the food we eat is broken down into nutritional compounds that the body can absorb and use. Food is broken down physically by the action of chewing. It is also broken down chemically by digestive enzymes in our gut.
Enzymes are molecules in the body that act as a catalyst to trigger a chemical reaction. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes used to break down food (carbohydrates, protein, and fats) into smaller, digestible molecules that provide us with nutrients (1). The nutrients that we absorb from food are determined by our digestive enzymes and the digestive ability of our gut microbiome (2).
The main types of digestive enzymes
- Lipase: To break down fats
- Amylase: To break down carbohydrates
- Proteases: To break down proteins
Not having enough digestive enzymes can lead to problems digesting food properly (3). For example, lactose intolerance and the accompanying inability to digest dairy products are often due to reduced lactase activity in the gut (4). The enzyme lactase is an amylase type of enzyme which breaks down lactose, the sugar in milk-based products. Insufficient lactase means you can’t break down lactose, which can cause digestive symptoms. We can increase our digestive enzymes through supplements or food.
Foods containing digestive enzymes include:
Pineapple contains the protease enzyme bromelain. Bromelain has many health benefits in treating bronchitis, sinusitis, surgical trauma, and wound healing. It also relieves osteoarthritis, diarrhea, various cardiovascular disorders and has some anti-cancerous activities (5).
Papaya contains another protease called papain. Papain can help to reduce digestive symptoms associated with IBS (6).
Mango contains the enzyme amylase, which breaks down carbs (7).
What are Probiotics?
Trillions of bacteria inhabit our guts. The amount and types of bacteria in the gut play a large role in how healthy or unhealthy we are. This is a booming area of science, and gut health is being linked to many health conditions.
Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, found in our guts (10). Probiotics are good bacteria, which help maintain the balance of good to bad bacteria.
Health Benefits of Probiotics:
Probiotics have many health benefits, with gut and immune health being the most researched. Approximately 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, and probiotics support a healthy immune system (11). Gut bacteria are critical for protecting against pathogens. Imbalanced gut bacterial composition, or dysbiosis, is associated with many inflammatory diseases and infections (12).
Probiotics stimulate the activity and increase the production of important regulatory immune cells. Having too many bad bacteria leads to many health problems like digestive problems, fatigue, poor skin health, autoimmune conditions, food intolerances or allergies, etc. Probiotics modulate and regulate inflammation, affect the inflammatory response by decreasing pro-inflammatory stimuli in the body, and influence common markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein (13). Probiotics determine gut health, and gut health is increasingly being linked to mental health, anxiety, and depression (14).
We can get probiotics from food or supplements. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, miso, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and other fermented foods. Check “The Best Time To Take Probiotics.”
In Conclusion, What Are The Benefits of Digestive Enzymes vs. Probiotics?
We need both digestive enzymes and probiotics for a good gut and overall health. You cannot prioritize one over the over. Digestive enzymes are critical for good digestion and absorption of nutrition from the food we eat. Probiotics are needed to keep the gut in good health, with a balanced amount of good to bad bacteria. Which one you focus on depends on your health status. If your gut is imbalanced and causing certain gut problems, then you want to focus on probiotics. If you have issues digesting your food, then you may need to increase your digestive enzymes.
Digestive enzymes and probiotics do different things for our health. Both are essential to feeling your best. Focus on healthy, whole foods that contain digestive enzymes and probiotics.
Read also “13 Best Prebiotic Foods to Eat.”