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  • Writer's pictureMarcie Vaske, MS, LN, CNS

Digestive Comfort: Are Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics the Same Thing?

Updated: Dec 31

Video Transcription:

Today, I'll delve into the distinctions between probiotics and digestive enzymes. The confusion around these for many, including my clients, prompts the need for clarification. Differentiating between enzymes and probiotics is crucial, and I aim to shed light on these differences.

Importance of Gut Health

As always, our focus is on gut health, which significantly impacts overall well-being. Symptoms like abdominal discomfort, gas, bloating, and digestive irregularities often signal gut issues, affecting the body's other systems. This underscores the relevance of digestive enzymes and probiotics.

Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics

Understanding the digestive process is fundamental. From chewing food to stomach breakdown via hydrochloric acid and enzymes, the journey continues through the small and large intestines, culminating in waste expulsion. Knowing this aids in discerning when to use enzymes or probiotics.

Introduction and Caution

I'm Marcie Vaskie, a licensed nutritionist at Flusso Nutrients, dedicated to supplement education. While I share insights used with our clients, it's crucial to consult a knowledgeable practitioner before supplement intake due to individual variations.

Understanding Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that reside in our gut and contribute to a healthy microbiome. They help balance the gut flora, reduce bloating and gas, improve food metabolism, and support overall digestive health. Probiotics are primarily found in the intestinal tract, but some also exist in the stomach and esophagus.

How Probiotics Work

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Probiotics exert their beneficial effects by:

  • Balancing gut flora: They maintain a healthy balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut, preventing overgrowth of pathogens.

  • Improving nutrient absorption: They enhance the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients, promoting overall digestive efficiency.

  • Boosting immune function: They stimulate the production of immune cells and strengthen the mucosal barrier, enhancing defense against infections.

Dietary Sources of Probiotics

You can obtain probiotics from various foods, including:

  • Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, yogurt, kefir

  • Certain cheeses: Gouda, cheddar, cottage cheese

  • Dark chocolate: Choose minimally processed options with a high cocoa content.

Benefits of Probiotic Supplements

If you have persistent gut issues, probiotic supplements can provide additional support. Consider probiotic supplements when:

  • Experiencing frequent digestive problems: Bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation

  • Undergoing antibiotic treatment: Antibiotics can disrupt gut flora balance, making probiotics beneficial.

  • Traveling or experiencing stress: Changes in environment and stress can affect gut health, necessitating probiotic support.

Choosing Probiotic Supplements

When selecting probiotic supplements, look for:

  • Third-party tested supplements: Ensure they have been independently tested for quality and potency.

  • Specified probiotic strains: Identify supplements that list the specific probiotic strains they contain.

  • Diverse probiotic strains: Choose formulas with a variety of probiotic strains to promote a diverse microbiome.

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Understanding Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are proteins that aid in breaking down food into smaller molecules that our bodies can absorb and utilize. They begin working as soon as we start chewing our food. The main digestive enzymes include:

  • Amylase: Breaks down carbohydrates into sugars

  • Protease: Breaks down protein into amino acids

  • Lipase: Breaks down fats into fatty acids and glycerol

How Digestive Enzymes Work

Digestive enzymes play a crucial role in digestion by:

  • Enhancing nutrient breakdown: They efficiently break down food components, facilitating nutrient absorption.

  • Reducing digestive discomfort: By effectively breaking down food, they can help alleviate gas, bloating, and other digestive issues.

  • Improving nutrient utilization: The efficient breakdown of food ensures that our bodies can utilize nutrients effectively for energy and cellular processes.

Dietary Sources of Digestive Enzymes

You can obtain digestive enzymes from various foods, including:

  • Raw fruits and vegetables: Papaya (contains bromelain), pineapple, bananas, apples

  • Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchi, miso

  • Ginger: Contains gingerol, which aids digestion and reduces nausea

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Benefits of Digestive Enzyme Supplements

Digestive enzyme supplements can be beneficial for individuals who:

  • Experience digestive discomfort: Bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation

  • Have poor nutrient absorption: Conditions like pancreatic insufficiency or Crohn's disease can impair enzyme production.

  • Consume a diet low in raw foods: Cooking can denature enzymes, so supplements can aid digestion.

Choosing Digestive Enzyme Supplements

When selecting digestive enzyme supplements, consider:

  • Your specific symptoms: Choose a supplement that targets your primary digestive concerns.

  • Enzyme formulation: Some formulas include hydrochloric acid to aid protein digestion.

  • Third-party testing: Ensure the supplement has been tested for quality and potency.

Timing of Digestive Enzyme Supplements

Take digestive enzyme supplements 10-15 minutes before meals or at the start of your meals to allow them to work effectively on the food you consume.


By understanding the differences between probiotics and digestive enzymes, you can make informed decisions about maintaining your gut health. Remember to consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.

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