It makes me so excited to see people getting interested in gut health. Why? Because the health of your gut is linked to the health of all your other body systems – including your nervous system. And let’s face it: with all the refined convenience foods we’ve gotten used to eating, our digestive systems have become a bit out of whack. Now it’s time to get them back on track!
Aside from making diet changes, supplementation is one of the best ways to improve your gut health. But with all the information out there different supplements it’s easy to get confused. In this article we are going to break down the two main gut-helping supplements: probiotics and digestive enzymes. When it comes down to it, they are really different, but don’t worry, we’ll help you figure out which one is right for you.
Probiotics are essentially “good” bacteria. And if right now you’re thinking “ew, why would I want to eat bacteria????”, let me explain. Your gut is home to hundreds of different kinds of bacteria. Many of these play a very important role in digestion, supporting the immune system, and even synthesizing certain vitamins.
However, there are also some not-so-good ones. Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut can lead to digestive issues like bloating, constipation, gas, and acid reflux. Some people also experience fatigue. Researchers now also believe that an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut can affects your mood, via the gut-brain axis.
It is really important in your gut microbiome that the good bacteria outweigh the bad. You can increase the amount of good bacteria by drinking and eating more fermented foods, but of course supplementation is always an option too.
How do you know if you need probiotics?
If you have digestive issues after you eat, and it seems to not matter what you eat, probiotics might help. However, a diet change is also really important when it comes to helping your gut. You should be eating lots of fiber, drinking tons of water, and also cutting down on refined foods and foods high in processed sugar. The bad bacteria in your gut feed off of these kinds of food, so cutting those foods out while adding in good bacteria to crowd them out is a smart strategy.
Digestive enzymes are just that – enzymes. When you eat different macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins), your pancreas releases different enzymes to help with digestion. In fact, it has different enzymes for each macronutrient. For example, amylase helps digest carbohydrates.
How do you know if you need digestive enzymes?
A poor diet, or a diet with a lot of a caffeine and alcohol, can decrease the amount of enzymes made by your pancreas over time. Digestive enzyme production can also simply decrease with age. You shouldn’t feel like there is a “rock in your stomach” after you eat! If your stomach feels heavy and uncomfortable after a meal, digestive enzymes are worth trying.
Most enzymes on the market will come with enzymes to digest all 3 macronutrients. You can buy enzymes that will work for just one type. For instance, if you know that fat is what you struggle to digest you can find digestive lipase on it’s own. However most people by a complex that has enzymes for carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Make sure to buy quality products when you are looking at supplements. Yes, they typically cost more – but they are also worth the money. With generic brands, you might as well throw it away.
If you are unsure about adding new supplements to your wellness routine, don’t forget to consult with your health professional first to make sure they are right for you. It is good to ensure that you won’t have any contraindications with your other medications.
That being said, both probiotics and digestive enzymes are completely safe to use. And both can help you get your gut to optimal health – especially when used together. If gut health is your priority, give them a try.
Are you currently taking probiotics or digestive enzymes? How have they helped you? I would love to hear your feedback below!