One area of health that many people tend to overlook, is digestive health. You likely keep up on the latest in nutrition information – how many calories you should eat and what the best macro split may be. You might also be considering which superfoods you should be adding to your diet to achieve your primary health goals.
All of this focus and attention to your diet is great, but you are missing out on one particular element: your digestive health.
You can have the best diet in the world, but if your body isn’t primed to use those foods properly, you are not going to see the results that you should otherwise be seeing.
When it comes to digestive health, there are two key types of nutrients you want to have in place: digestive enzymes and probiotics. If you’ve come to believe they are essentially the same thing, you need to reconsider this fact because they are extremely different.
Let’s look at the differences between the two so you can come to a better understanding.
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that reside in the gut and help to counteract the effects of the bad, unhealthy bacteria. While most of us have some naturally occurring probiotics in our system, most often, the numbers are not where they need to be to help maintain optimal health.
Factors such as eating an unhealthy diet rich in processed foods, not getting enough sleep at night, and using prescription antibiotics (which kill off both the bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria), all have effects on our levels, causing them to dwindle.
What are the benefits of sufficient probiotics? Probiotics are a necessary element of the digestive equation because they are responsible for keeping your immune system healthy1. Many people don’t realize this, but about 80% of your immune system is found in your gut, so if your gut environment is not optimal, you’re already going to face problems. A weak immunes system makes you more likely to suffer from diseases and other conditions and can also lead to you feeling run down.
Having a sufficient level of probiotics is also very important as far as managing your bowel health. Those who suffer from IBS2, constipation or diarrhea can really benefit from including some probiotics in their diet plan. Often these probiotics can completely remedy the situation.
Finally, probiotics also offer other key benefits including boosting brain health, enhancing memory and concentration3, assisting with treating yeast infections, promoting better rates of weight loss, and even controlling cholesterol levels.
Probiotics are live bacteria so it’s important that you do find a high-quality product or you may wind up putting ineffective bacteria in your body (if they don’t survive the packaging and shelf life process).
Next, we have digestive enzymes. While probiotics help to keep your gut healthy, digestive enzymes are vital for ensuring that you’re properly absorbing all the nutrients you take in from foods.
Those who are experiencing symptoms of intolerances – such as lactose intolerance, can often benefit from having some digestive enzymes in their diet plan. These enzymes will help to provide the right raw materials to properly digest the foods that you are eating so no food is left sitting in the gut to rot and cause problems. It may sound unappealing, but your gut can be a very toxic environment if you aren’t able to fully break down the foods that you are eating. It’s no wonder then that people sometimes experience issues such as gas, bloating, and stomach pain. The right digestive enzymes can help clear this up.
The reason you may not be producing the right amount of enzymes to break down the foods you are eating could be varied. In some cases, you simply weren’t born with the ability to produce the amount of enzyme that is required. In other cases, your body may be slowing production down due to the type of foods that you have eaten in the past. In other cases, a disease may be the limiting cause as to why you aren’t producing the enzymes that are necessary to see optimal results.
So there you have a basic primer on what digestive enzymes and probiotics are. Both are necessary ingredients for creating a healthy digestive system and body as a whole. While you can just use one of the two if you à only need assistance in one area, most people can benefit from both of them.
Even if you aren’t currently experiencing any type of digestive strain or discomfort, don’t think that this automatically means that your digestive system is working properly. Very often there could be problems happening behind the scenes that haven’t come out yet.
Prevention is always key.
Shannon Clark is your go-to-girl. She holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta, where she specialized in Sports Performance and Psychology. In addition to her degree, she is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and has been working in the field for over 12 years now, and has helped others of all ages lose weight, build muscle, and improve their physical performance.
1. Perdigon, G., et al. "Immune system stimulation by probiotics." Journal of dairy science 78.7 (1995): 1597-1606.
2. Kim, Young Gyun, et al. "The effects of probiotics on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome." The Korean journal of gastroenterology= Taehan Sohwagi Hakhoe chi 47.6 (2006): 413-419.
3. Cryan, John F., and Timothy G. Dinan. "Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behavior." Nature reviews neuroscience 13.10 (2012): 701.