Digestive Enzymes vs. Probiotics: What’s The Difference?

Digestive enzymes are naturally occurring proteins that are made by your body. They can also be found in many natural foods and supplements. Digestive enzymes are known to be helpful not only for optimal digestion, but may help support weight loss and other bodily functions.

Like digestive enzymes, probiotics are key to your digestive system – and your body’s overall health. But when it comes to digestive enzymes and probiotics, what’s the difference? Read on as we dive into the differences – and similarities – between these two necessary compounds.


What Are Digestive Enzymes? 

Digestive enzymes are proteins that help break down your food. They work to ensure that the food gets broken down enough so that it’s small enough to move through your body via your blood vessels. They’re produced by different organs in different places along the digestive system, starting with the salivary glands and going all the way through the stomach, small intestine, liver, and pancreas.

Digestive enzymes are not alive, and do not reproduce. They are organic, and are made by living things. They need to be uncooked in order for them to be delivered to our bodies through the food we eat; if we eat food that is cooked over 140 degrees, the enzymes are rendered inactive.

Enzymes And Digestion

Nutrients must be small enough to travel through our blood vessels if they’re going to be delivered throughout our body. Digestion is so important because of just this – and digestive enzymes are a huge player in the digestive system. There are several different methods of digestion throughout the body.

The process of digestion begins in your mouth. The first part of the process is chewing, followed by digestive enzymes in the saliva that help being the process of breaking down nutrients.

In your small intestines and your stomach, this process gets more in-depth. Foods that are fat-based are digested by bile in the liver. This bile is delivered through the gall bladder to your small intestine.

Protein-based foods are digested with stomach acid in your stomach. Both proteins and fats, as well as carbs, are digested by enzymes called “pancreatic enzymes”.

These enzymes are synthesized in the pancreas, and are key when it comes to the digestion of vegetables, grains, and fruits.

How Enzymes Work

Enzymes work to catalyze reactions within the body. Your body runs on chemical reactions, such as digestion. Every one of these reactions is caused by different enzymes. They can work without getting damaged; therefore, the greater the amount of enzymes in your body, the faster a chemical reaction, such as the reaction that causes digestion, can occur.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are a kind of bacteria that are at home in your digestive system. That’s right – these living bacteria are inside you right now! There are likely to be more bacteria in just a little bit of your small intestine than there are in your entire body, and probiotics are one of these.

This good bacteria is one that helps maintain your body’s digestive system function, and can contribute to the good function of other bodily systems.

Your digestive tract is home to a ton of different kinds of bacteria, but probiotics are thought to be some of the most helpful. These live microorganisms can bring several health benefits to you, especially in that they help maintain a healthy gut.

How Probiotics Work

Probiotics are an area of human digestion that is still being studied. Though there has been quite a bit of research done, several scientists and doctors are still looking into the ways in which probiotics can be beneficial to our bodies.

As of now, researchers have found probiotics to be useful in dealing with such health issues as obesity, liver disease, and even tooth decay.

Probiotics work to help stabilize the digestive tract. This means that they help prevent the growth of bad bacteria and help provide a safe environment for good gut bacteria to grow and thrive.

Where Are Digestive Enzymes Found?

Digestive enzymes are naturally occurring in the human body. Some of the organs that create digestive enzymes include:

  • The Pancreas
  • The Salivary Glands
  • The Stomach
  • The Small Intestine

Digestive enzymes can also be found in over-the-counter supplements, which come in several different forms including powders and pill-capsules/tablets.

These supplements are typically derived from microbes, animals, or plants, and work to help your body to digest all different kinds of food (both natural and processed).

Of course, you can also get digestive enzymes from the kinds of food that you eat. There are several types of fruits, veggies, and fermented goods that can help you get more digestive enzymes, including but not limited to:

  • Pineapple
  • Ginger
  • Soy Sauce
  • Yogurt
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Bananas
  • Honey
  • Avocado
  • Miso

These different foods all contain different types of digestive enzyme. These digestive enzymes typically fall under three categories:

Category 1

These digestive enzymes are key when it comes to the breaking down of proteins and protein-based foods.

Category 2

These digestive enzymes are key when it comes to the breaking down of fats and fat-based foods.

Category 3

These digestive enzymes are key when it comes to the breaking down of carbs and carb-based foods, such as starches.

Each of these digestive enzymes are important, as they hold the key to digesting different types of foods and food groups.

The above work to break down the carbs, proteins, and fats in our diets into molecules that are small enough to be easily and quickly absorbed into our bloodstream. Of course, this works for both health foods and foods that aren’t so healthy.

If you don’t have enough digestive enzymes or are someone who is deficient when it comes to the synthesis of these enzymes, your food won’t be digested properly.

Where Are Probiotics Found? 

Probiotics can be found in several types of food as well, and can also be supplemented with probiotic pills, powders, and more.

The most common foods in which probiotics are found include:

  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Natto
  • Yogurt
  • Raw Cheese
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Salted Gherkin Pickles
  • Brine-Cured Olives
  • Tempeh
  • Miso

If you are the kind of person who faces digestive issues, you may want to supplement your diet with either probiotic supplements or some of the above foods.

The Difference Between Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics

Though both digestive enzymes and probiotics go hand in hand when it comes to healthy digestions, there are some major differences between the two that are important to understand.

Dead or Alive?

First and foremost, the most outstanding difference between the two is simply that while probiotics are living bacteria, digestive enzymes are not alive.

Probiotics, because they are living, can multiply and reproduce within your body.

As long as you have a solid breeding ground for these good bacteria and are healthy, you’ll have a good, continuous number of probiotics that you can supplement with either probiotic pills or some probiotic-heavy foods in your diet.

However, if you need more probiotics, it is likely because you are not able to support probiotic life.

Digestive enzymes are not living. They are created by living creatures (such as yourself, other animals, plants, and microbes). Your body creates digestive enzymes.

If you do not have enough digestive enzymes, it is likely because you are unable to synthesize this enzyme. You can supplement your digestive enzymes with digestive enzyme pills/powders, as well as with some of the aforementioned digestive enzyme-heavy foods.


Another key difference between probiotics and digestive enzymes is how they arrive in your body.

You cannot synthesize probiotics; they come from outside your body in probiotic-heavy foods or probiotic supplements.

This means that while it is possible for probiotics to reproduce inside you, they do not start inside you.

However, you do produce digestive enzymes in some of the aforementioned organs that are key players in the digestive system’s tract.


Finally, a last different between the two are the location of digestive enzymes versus probiotics within the body.

As noted, digestive enzymes can be created in several different organs along your digestive tract.

That means that you can find digestive enzymes everywhere from your mouth (the saliva) to your small intestine; there are enzymes everywhere.

However, probiotic bacteria cannot live everywhere in your body. In fact, they’re concentrated specifically in parts of the digestive system such as the small intestine. They work to help promote gut health and keep bad bacteria at bay.

Similarities Between Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics

Of course, though both digestive enzymes and probiotics have their differences, there are also similarities between the two. Both of them can be incorporated into your diet, for example. As you probably noticed, several probiotic-rich foods are also foods that are high in digestive-enzyme levels.

Additionally, though enzymes help with the body’s metabolic processes, both probiotics and digestive enzymes help with the support of digestive and immune health.

In Conclusion

Both digestive enzymes and probiotics are key player when it comes to the health of the digestive tract – and our overall health. While they have their major differences, the two go hand in hand when it comes to thinking about ways in which to promote digestive health and happiness.

A key difference between the two to remember are that digestive enzymes are not alive, while probiotics are. Another big difference is the concentration of probiotics in the small intestine, while digestive enzymes can be found in several places throughout your body.

Digestive enzymes are key to all life functions and the chemical reactions that support our body’s natural, most important functions. While probiotics are key in supporting a healthy gut microbiome, which goes on to support other important bodily systems, they are not necessarily the key to chemical reactions.

Overall, it is important to maintain both a healthy level of digestive enzymes and probiotics when it comes to digestive and general health and wellbeing.

Last Updated on