By Dr. M. Mamadou, Ph.D

Often the question is asked: I am taking probiotics, so why am I taking enzymes?

It is estimated that there are over 400 different species of microorganisms in the gut. 1  Cell by cell there are more microorganisms in the human body than there are proper human cells.  If one puts all these microorganisms together, they will form a mass as big as the human liver with a weight of 1.5 kg or about 3 lbs. 2

Probiotics are supplemental microorganisms to support friendly microbes of the body.  That means they have many metabolic functions: they consume nutrients, metabolize the nutrients, reproduce, develop defense mechanisms, and basically have all functions that any living organism has.  They have many molecules that allow them to maintain their functional and structural integrity and life.

Enzymes are molecules that catalyze biochemical functions: enzymes are not organisms.  In fact, probiotics produce various enzymes to ensure their own metabolism and survival.

Thus, there is a clear distinction between enzymes and probiotics.  In terms of supplementation, there is another important distinction.

Supplemental enzymes taken for digestive support work in the upper gastrointestinal tract where most digestion and absorption of food nutrients take place.  More specifically, supplemental digestive enzymes work in the stomach and the upper parts of the small intestine where they help digest the foods.  Absorption of nutrients in the human gastrointestinal tract occurs mostly in the small intestine.

In contrast, ingested supplemental probiotics do not contribute effectively in human health until they reach the large intestine and establish their “residence.”  That means that they need to: (1) attach themselves to the walls of the large intestine, then (2) grow and multiply, and (3) produce the various beneficial molecules that help them sustain their life.

Once they establish their colonization of the large intestine, they consume food residues that reach the lower intestine.  Any foods that are not properly digested and/or absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract will be used by various probiotics for their own metabolism and survival.

As a result of their metabolism, they produce molecules that the human host can use and benefit from.  This interaction is symbiotic in nature as the human host provides food residues or unabsorbed nutrients and the probiotics provide some beneficial molecules for the host.

Watching what you eat, and including digestive enzymes and probiotics as a regular part of your health maintenance program is a good approach for digestive health and systemic wellness. Supplemental digestive enzymes and probiotics do not exclude each other.  They both have specific support roles in ensuring gastrointestinal health, support and systemic wellness.


Dr. M. Mamadou has a Ph.D from the University of Cincinnati, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in their Department of Pharmacology and Cell Biophysics, working on developmental gene expression. He is currently President/CSO of Phytomedic Labs. 


1Gorbach SL. Microbiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract. In: Baron S, editor. Medical Microbiology. 4th edition. Galveston (TX): University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; 1996. Chapter 95. Available from:

2Gerritsen J, Smidt H, Rijkers GT, de Vos WM. Intestinal microbiota in human health and disease: the impact of probiotics. Genes & Nutrition. 2011;6(3):209-240. doi:10.1007/s12263-011-0229-7.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.