Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
6 min read
Digestive enzymes and probiotics both play an important role in the health of your digestive system. Moreover, they’re both available in supplement form and are used to support gut health. However, they’re not meant to be used interchangeably; in fact, their effects on gut health differ in important ways.
Probiotics are living microorganisms, of which there are trillions already in your gut. The health of your gut microbiome, which directly affects the health of the rest of your body, largely relies on the presence of “good bacteria.” And that’s precisely what probiotics are.
Digestive enzymes, on the other hand, aren’t living and they aren’t bacteria. They’re proteins that are secreted in your stomach, mouth, small intestine, and most of all, in your pancreas. They help your body break down the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the food you eat, and thus allow your body to absorb nutrients. The three main types are: amylase, which breaks down carbohydrates; lipase, which works with liver bile to break down fats; and protease, which breaks proteins down into amino acids.
Despite their differences, they function in a complementary way. Think of it like this: Probiotics affect the environment of your digestive system, while digestive enzymes support the actual process of digestion. Together, they promote good gut health.
When discussing the supplemental forms of probiotics and digestive enzymes, there is an important difference in how to store your supplements. You probably won’t be storing them together. Digestive enzyme supplements don’t need to be refrigerated, and many probiotic supplements do.
You may wonder which is better for you – digestive enzymes or probiotics. Well, that entirely depends on your particular health goals. Both are beneficial, and your body needs both.
When it comes to your immune system, digestive enzymes and probiotics both have a role. Digestive enzymes are essential for getting proper nutrients from your food into your body; if your body is getting enough of the nutrients it needs, your immune system will function more effectively.
Probiotics, however, have a much more direct impact on the immune system. About 70-80% of your body’s immune cells are associated with the gut mucosa; indeed, the gut houses about 70% of your body’s immune cells. Probiotics are constantly communicating with the immune system and can support its healthy functioning. Studies have demonstrated the ways in which the health of the gut microbiome influences the immune system, with researchers concluding that the gut microbiome can even affect the likelihood that people will develop certain conditions. A healthy gut also has to include the sound functioning of the epithelial barrier – basically a wall of defense to protect the host from any foreign invaders. Probiotics, by promoting a healthy gut, can also support the strong epithelial barrier function.
Bloating can be caused by a number of factors, including: the menstrual cycle, eating too quickly, sensitivity to certain foods. Sometimes it can also be caused by underlying gastrointestinal problems, including insufficient digestive enzymes and imbalances in the gut microbiome. That’s where digestive enzymes and probiotics can come into play.
Taking replacement digestive enzymes can help alleviate bloating by supporting the breakdown of the foods you eat.
A study that looked at the effects of probiotics on abdominal bloating found that subjects who took the probiotics had better outcomes than those who took the placebo. Another study similarly found that probiotics can be helpful for managing a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloating. Probiotics can even promote better enzyme function in the digestive system, which in turn has an impact on metabolism, appetite, and bowel movements.
When it comes to digestion, it may be no surprise that something called a “digestive enzyme” will provide pretty immediate support. Probiotics are beneficial for digestion, too, in that they can support the creation of certain enzymes.
It’s important to take a digestive enzyme supplement right before meals; this will make sure that they can be used as your food is making its way to your stomach and small intestine. Then the digestive supplement can get to work breaking down your food. The science backs this up. One study looked at the impact of lipase supplementation right before eating a high-fat meal, and found that participants who took the supplement had much less gastrointestinal discomfort than the placebo group did. Furthermore, the benefits of the supplement became more apparent over time: Within the first ten minutes of finishing the meal, both the control and placebo groups were experiencing symptoms of stomach fullness and indigestion; within 20 to 30 minutes, though, the lipase-supplemented group had fewer symptoms than the placebo group.
Another study found that supplementing with the alpha-galactosidase enzyme reduced gassiness in subjects compared to those in the placebo group.
H2: Can you take digestive enzymes and probiotics together? You can take digestive enzymes and probiotics together. Indeed, taking them together can ensure you get the best of both worlds!
Taking probiotics can help create a healthy environment for your digestive system, even stimulating the creation of helpful enzymes. Taking digestive enzyme supplements can help improve your body’s process of digestion, breaking down food and allowing your body to absorb the nutrients it needs to function. Taking them together can help promote the health of your gut and the effectiveness of your digestive processes – and cut down on frustrating symptoms while you’re at it. There’s no evidence to suggest that probiotics and digestive enzymes will interact negatively in your system.
If you’re having digestive problems, you should talk to your doctor about whether probiotics and digestive enzymes are right for you. You can even see about incorporating prebiotics – plant fibers that help healthy bacteria grow – for their synergistic effects on probiotics. Care/of offers all three. Our high quality digestive enzymes are made with a blend of enzymes to help break down dairy, gluten, fiber, and more. Our probiotic blend can help naturally regulate your digestive system. And our prebiotics ease bloating and allow probiotics to work more effectively.
Digestive enzymes and probiotics are both necessary for a healthy digestive system. Digestive enzymes help break down your food while probiotics support the health of the gut microbiome. Their relationship can rightly be called complementary. Both can support your body in combating bloating, supporting digestion, and strengthening the immune system. Taking them together may maximize their impact.