What's The Difference Between A Digestive Enzyme And A Probiotic?

Trying to determine which supplement is best for you can be tricky — especially when you're looking to bolster your gut health. While probiotics may be the trendy option for gut health, digestive enzymes can give your stomach the support it needs to digest with greater ease. According to Mindbodygreen, the one that's best for you depends on what's happening in your body.

The main difference between the two supplements is that probiotics are living bacteria that live within your gut, while digestive enzymes act as proteins that help spur digestion, the outlet explains. Vincent Pedre, M.D. told the outlet, "Think of probiotics as your little helpers that restore order and help maintain harmony in your gut ecosystem. You want them to outnumber and antagonize unwelcome bugs, including unfavorable bacteria, yeast, and parasites."

While probiotics keep your system balanced, digestive enzymes specifically aid in the absorption of nutrients. Mindbodygreen reports that these proteins actually increase the speed at which chemical reactions take place in your gastrointestinal tract — keeping your digestion humming along. These processes help your small intestine fully absorb the nutrients from your food, Dr. Ruscio explains. These are non-living proteins of course, while probiotics are technically live bacteria.

Probiotics treat a larger spectrum of ailments

When it comes time to choose a supplement, it's wise to think of your symptoms first. For instance, Dr. Ruscio notes, those with food intolerances often benefit from ingesting digestive enzymes. With bloating, gas and abdominal pain upon eating, you may feel best when you take your digestive supplement before you eat certain foods to help your stomach fully digest your meal.

As far as gut disorders go, such as IBS, leaky gut and SIBO, a probiotic may be your best bet for feeling better. Since these supplements contain good bacteria, it helps balance out spots of inflammation in this area of the body and around the rest of your system. Plus, the outlet notes, inflammation of the gut also contributes to mental health issues such as depression, stress and anxiety. As such, probiotics treat a larger swath of issues ranging from mental to physical ailments. 

If you're not sure which would be best for you, you can take them both, Mindbodygreen notes. Start with a probiotic and then slowly add in digestive enzymes, Dr. Ruscio recommends, and notice how it impacts your digestion and overall state of being.