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Probiotics or Digestive Enzymes?

I’m often asked by clients experiencing digestive issues for one or the other. More often than not they are asking about how probiotics, rather than enzymes, can help them with digestion and symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

While probiotics and digestive enzymes play roles in your digestion and immune function, they are very different things.

Enzymes are proteins, produced by your body, which are catalysts for breaking down food items (macronutrients) like fats, protein, and carbohydrates into smaller molecules so they can be absorbed into your bloodstream. A deficiency in enzymes may lead to digestive problems.

If you are deficient in the digestive enzyme lactase, then the sugar lactose, found in milk and dairy products,  is undigested when it reaches your colon, this leads bacteria there to produce gas, creating bloating and possibly diarrhea. This condition is well known as “lactose intolerance”. By supplementing with digestive enzymes which include lactase, the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be reduced or eliminated.

Probiotics are live bacteria or yeasts which live in your gut and contribute to immune function by competing with invasive “bad” bacteria for space in the gut, preventing poor absorption of nutrients and water and also preventing constipation or diarrhea. Probiotics are not produced in the body the way digestive enzymes are and must be consumed or supplemented. Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut are some food sources of probiotics.

In summary enzymes help break down food molecules while probiotics control invasive bacteria that may enter the system and aid in nutrient absorption.

It is perfectly safe to take both enzymes and probiotics in supplemental form, just before meals, if you are suffering digestive symptoms like the ones described above.

Speak to the Live Well team at Pharmasave Summerland to learn more about how you can improve your digestive health.


Dan Cassidy – Registered Nutritional Product Advisor