Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

digestive enzymes and probiotics

Gluten-free, bioavailable, hyperlocal, antioxidants, digestive enzymes and probiotics…There are so many different buzzwords constantly floating around the world of health, it’s hard to keep track of what’s what! Even the most health conscious amongst us gets lost in a sea of terminology.

While many of us have a pretty impressive health and wellness vocabulary, very few of us really have an in-depth knowledge of the science behind the headlines. Let’s change that! Let’s learn about some of the things that make us who we are and allow our bodies to perform at the top of their game.

So, first things first, let’s explore the difference between digestive enzymes and probiotics. While you probably know that both digestive enzymes and probiotics are good for you, there are some major difference between them. Ready to dig in?

Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics 101

Digestive enzymes are proteins produced by your GI tract that break your food down into easy to digest nutrients that can be absorbed by your body and used for fuel. On the other hand, probiotics aren’t actually produced by your body at all. They are living microorganism that exist in food and provide you with an essential health boost by impacting the balance of bacteria in your gut.

Where in my body are digestive enzymes made?

The stomach acid, saliva and other intestinal juices in your gastrointestinal tract (AKA your GI tract) are packed with digestive enzymes that are working to breakdown your food. Your pancreas and small intestine, in particular, are loaded with digestive enzymes.

Which part of my body uses probiotics?

Would you believe that your body contains a whopping 3.5 pounds of probiotic bacteria? For a reference point, your brain only weighs three pounds. Your gut is loaded with this essential goodness.

But probiotics aren’t just in your gut – they also live in your mouth, throat, lungs, and genitals!

Why are digestive enzymes important?

In order to get nutrients, digestive enzymes are essential. Your body doesn’t actually absorb food. Food is useless without digestive enzymes breaking it down into useable fuel. When you eat, digestive enzymes break your food down into fatty acids, amino acids, sugar, vitamins and minerals.

Why are probiotics important?

It’s hard to even wrap your head around all of the things affected by probiotics and the bacteria balance inside of your gut. There have been hundreds of studies showing that there are more than 170 diseases directly related to the balance of flora in your gut. Everything from digestion to depression to obesity to heart disease is linked to your gut bacteria. Find out the many benefits of probiotics for your entire body!

How do I know if my body doesn’t produce enough digestive enzymes?

While it is rare that healthy people don’t produce enough digestive enzymes, there are some conditions that can cause underproduction. Diseases related to your pancreas like pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis and pancreatitis can prevent your body from producing an adequate number of digestive enzymes.

In addition, severe cases of Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease can also affect production. In any of these cases, your doctor will advise you.

Why do some people produce fewer digestive enzymes?

While it is rare to produce a truly inadequate amount of digestive enzymes, there is definitely a healthy range and some people are at the lower end.

Unfortunately, the process of aging affects your entire gut. Your body become less efficient as it gets older and slowly begins producing fewer digestive enzymes. This is the reasons why many older people have trouble breaking down food and have to deal with gas, bloating and sometimes new food allergies or intolerances.

Young people with food allergies can also develop deficiencies in their digestive enzymes as can people under chronic stress whose bodies are functioning less efficiently.

What happens if I don’t get enough probiotics?

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about your body producing inadequate probiotics since they come from food. You do, however, have to be mindful about your diet.

Hippocrates once said that “all disease begins in the gut.” It turns out that he was pretty spot on! From skin conditions to depression, you get health can affect everything. Since around ¾ of your immune system is inside of your intestinal track, your health is closed tied to probiotics and their effect on the delicate bacteria balance in your gut.

Can I increase the digestive enzymes my body produces?

Yep! Fortunately, you can up your body’s production of digestive enzymes. Here are a few quick and easy ways to go about it.

  • Add more natural enzymes to your diet with raw food. Eating raw fruit and veg gives you enzymes to help in food digestion. Pineapples are great for this as are papayas. Sprouts of all kinds as well as raw honey will give you a major boost too.
  • Juice helps too. If you are having trouble eating enough produce during the day, drinking fresh juice made of fruits and vegetables will give you a major boost as well.
  • Have a dose of apple cider vinegar before you eat. Just a quick teaspoon before a meal can ramp up your enzyme production system and make food easier to break down.
  • Keep in mind that digestion begins in your mouth (with your saliva working to break down foods) and eat slowly! Even the healthiest people out there are often doing themselves an injustice by not really chewing their food. Keep gnawing away at your food until it is broken down. This will make a massive difference in your body’s ability properly digest food.
  • Add more ginger to your diet. You might have heard that ginger is good for its anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory effect. That is because it contains a powerful enzyme that will aid in your digestion and protect the lining of your stomach.
  • Regularly eat fermented food. There’s a reason people have been eating fermented foods for centuries! Beyond just being tasty, fermented foods are loaded with enzymes. The bacteria in fermented food also gives food a sort of pre-digested quality, which doesn’t sound too appetizing but makes food much easier to break down.
  • Take a digestive enzyme. The best digestive enzyme supplements combine a range of potent plant-based enzymes with a wide array of multi-strain probiotics to support overall digestive function and increase nutrient absorption.

How can I get more probiotics?

Since your body doesn’t naturally produce any probiotics, it is incredibly important to know how to properly add an adequate amount of these essential goodies to your diet. Here are a few of my favorite ways to get more probiotics.

  • Eat more yogurt! If you have a TV or a computer, it is pretty likely that you have seen some yogurt advertisements promoting the probiotics in this creamy good stuff. While many types of yogurt have tens of billions of bacteria per servings, it’s important to know that not all yogurts are creating equally. In fact, some have no probiotics at all! Make sure your yogurt is labelled as having “live” and “active” cultures.
  • Start to love kefir. This milk-like beverage is packed with probiotics. Famous throughout Eastern Europe and Turkey, kefir definitely doesn’t take like milk. Most people either love it or hate it. If you hate it, blend it into a smoothie. I promise, you’ll never ever taste it!
  • Order some kimchi. You’ll find this Korean staple at countless Asian restaurants. It’s a delicious and easy way to add more probiotics to your diet. Eat it on its own or add it to sandwiches.
  • Get into pickles! These amazing little snacks are packed with probiotics. Be sure to grab the kind brined in water and salt though! While tasty, the little cucumbers swimming in vinegar don’t have any probiotics at all. Check your local co-op or hunt down real pickles at a farmers’ market.
  • Have a side of sauerkraut. This amazing fermented cabbage treat is loaded with healthy bacteria. Once again, however, there are tons of imitators out there! The cheapest sauerkraut in your local grocery store probably doesn’t have a bit of probiotics in it. You have to go track down the kind of sauerkraut that hadn’t been pasteurized.
  • Eat more sourdough bread. The yeast for this tangy bread has probiotics in it. As a bonus, it’s low on the glycemic index so it won’t cause the famous bread sugar crash!
  • Start loving miso soup. This incredible soup of fermented soybeans is amazing for your health. Packed with probiotics and ultra-low in calories, this a dream food. Just remember that it is high in sodium so don’t go overboard with it.
  • Find recipes with tempeh. Another form of fermented soybeans, this vegetarian staple is incredibly healthy, filling and packed with probiotics.
  • Add a high quality probiotic supplement to your daily diet. This is hands down the easiest way of making sure you’re getting a regular dose of a variety of the most beneficial bacteria for your gut.

And, there you have it! That is everything that you need to know to familiarize yourself with the crazy, amazing world of digestive enzymes and probiotics as well as the difference between these two essentials and how they impact your body.

As always, it is so important to take charge of your health. Keep yourself informed and never stop learning. Research, research and then research some more! While we might not all follow a healthy diet 100% of the time (and that’s okay!), it is really important to know what you are putting in your body and how to affects you. From probiotics to digestive enzymes, these are all essential building blocks to a healthy mind and body.

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