One of the greatest areas of confusion around supporting digestive health is the difference between supplemental digestive enzymes and probiotics.
Both offer incredible benefits when taken correctly, for the correct reasons.
But, here is the thing. Most people with digestive complaints like gas and bloating may not be taking the type of product that really works to provide relief.
You’ve likely heard the term probiotic and know these beneficial bacteria are found in foods such as yogurt, aged cheeses, and kombucha, as well as their availability through supplementation in capsules and tablets. Essentially, probiotics are live bacteria that can reside within your digestive system. Probiotics are beneficial organisms that play an immense role in the functions of your body. From foundational digestive health to supporting your overall immune function and even influencing your mood, probiotics can be an incredible addition to many individuals’ supplement regime.
Unfortunately, probiotics are of limited value in helping deal with common digestive complaints like indigestion, gas, bloating, and food intolerances. The reason is simple -- probiotics do not digest food. You need digestive enzymes to accomplish this task. While probiotics are marketed as a cure-all for almost any digestive concern, the reality is the relief that people are seeking is best obtained through supplementation with digestive enzymes.
Some digestive enzymes break down protein (proteases), while others break down fat (lipases), and carbohydrates (amylases). There are many more types of enzymes than these, but you will generally find these three included in most digestive enzyme formulas.
Unlike probiotics, enzymes can make an immediate difference in digesting your meal. That is because enzymes actually help digest food, probiotics do not. Many who have occasional digestive difficulties will feel relief within minutes of taking a digestive enzyme supplement. This is because the enzymes are working directly with the body to breakdown your meal. Many digestive symptoms are simply the result of improper breakdown of food by enzymes.
Enzymes can come from a variety of sources, including fruit, like papaya and pineapple, animal sources (usually pigs) and fungus. Each enzyme has slightly different properties in how they function, but generally fungal and plant enzymes are the most effective as dietary supplements because they are very stable and can function within a wide range of pH levels.
The best digestive enzyme supplements work at multiple pH levels. This effect is very important, because the pH in the digestive track can range from very acidic to more alkaline. For example, the pH in the stomach is 1.5 (acidic) and up to 8.3 in the intestines (alkaline).
As Chief Science Officer of Enzymedica
, I have reviewed independent lab tests that prove some formulas are three times stronger and work more than six times faster than other leading enzyme supplements.
There are also options to combine the benefits of probiotics and enzymes
in a single supplement.
Gut health is so much more than a growing health craze, it’s a widespread problem. Digestive issues contribute to a total of 72 million doctor visits, hospitalizations or emergency admissions in the United States alone, according to a recent report by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
. Knowing your options when it comes to supplements that can help will give you the knowledge to make informed decisions about your health.