Difference Between Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes

Key Difference – Probiotics vs Digestive Enzymes

Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote the health of the digestive system. Digestive enzymes are specific proteins produced in the GI tract that facilitates the macromolecular breakdown inside the human body. This is the key difference between probiotics and digestive enzymes and further differences between these two will be summarized in this article.

What is Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are able to prevent and treat some diseases especially, by promoting a healthy digestive tract and healthy immune system. It is often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2001 definition for probiotics is “Live organisms which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a healthy benefit on the host”.  It can be naturally found in your body or can also be added to the body by using some foods and dietary supplements.

Probiotics may contain a variety of microorganisms. Most common types of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus has 18 different bacteria strains while Bifidobacterium has 8 different bacteria strains. Lactobacillus lives in the human small intestine whereas Bifidobacterium inhabits the human colon.

Yogurt and Kefir are rich sources of probiotics (a drink made from goat, cow, sheep, soy, rice or coconut milk). Sauerkraut, pickles, dark chocolates, kombucha tea, and tempeh, also contain probiotics. Basically, probiotics can be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Infectious/antibiotic-related diarrhea. They also help with skin conditions like eczema, urinary and vaginal health, allergies, colds, and oral health.

Difference Between Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes

Yakult, a drink containing Lactobacillus casei

Probiotics are generally safe for consumption, but people with problems in the immune system or serious health conditions should confirm the consumption with their doctor. In some occasions, mild side effects such as diarrhea, bloating stomach, and some allergies can be found.

What are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are specialized proteins designed to break apart large macromolecules into smaller parts to facilitate their absorption by the body. Digestive enzymes are found in gastrointestinal (GI) tract of humans and animals; they can also be found in carnivorous plants.

Inside the human body, digestive enzymes are secreted by salivary glands, secretory cells in the stomach, and pancreas and secretory glands in the small intestine. Digestive enzymes as per their target substrate are as follows

  • Proteases/Peptidases – to break down protein into small peptides/amino acids
  • Lipase – to break down fat into fatty acids and glycerol
  • Amylases – to break down carbohydrate into glucose
  • Nucleases – to break down nucleic acid into nucleotides

People with digestive problems and those who suffer from malnutrition despite eating healthy food may particularly benefit from digestive enzyme supplementation.

Key Difference - Probiotics vs Digestive Enzymes

What is the difference between Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes?


Probiotics: Probiotics are live microorganisms

Digestive enzymes: Digestive enzymes are proteins.


Probiotics: Probiotics cannot be synthesized inside the body (inherited by the mother or taken via external consumption)

Digestive enzymes: Digestive enzymes are produced by the GI tract.


Probiotics: Probiotics are heavily concentrated in large and small intestines.

Digestive enzymes: Digestive enzymes are found in various locations in GI tract including saliva, stomach acid, pancreatic juice and the body’s intestinal secretions.

Relationship with the body

Probiotics: Probiotics have a symbiotic relationship with the human body by consuming organic materials

Digestive enzymes: Digestive enzymes naturally exist and do not consume organic materials for their survival.

Enzyme Production

Probiotics: Probiotics produce different types of enzymes. While they are used primarily to degrade organic materials which are used as their own food source, this additional source of enzymes also will benefit the human digestion/health.

Digestive enzymes: Digestive enzymes do not produce enzymes. Instead, they help in digestion by acting as digestive enzymes.


What’s the difference between probiotics and digestive enzymes? [Online]. Available: http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/faq/probiotics-digestive-enzymes-differences [Accessed June 24 2016].

VIEIRA, A. T., TEIXEIRA, M. M. & MARTINS, F. S. 2013. The role of probiotics and prebiotics in inducing gut immunity. Front Immunol, 4, 445.

WILLIAMS, D. The Importance of Digestive Enzymes to Gut Health [Online]. Available: http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/gut-health-digestive-enzymes/ [Accessed June 24 2016].

Image Courtesy:

“SG Yakult 4 flavours” By Dezzawong – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

“Major digestive enzymes” – Stephaniegreenwood assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims). (Public Domain,) via Commons Wikimedia