Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Digestive Enzymes: Three Ways to Improve Gut Health

Science by HLTH Code Team

In recent years, gut health has taken center stage in discussions surrounding overall health. Gut health refers to the state of the gastrointestinal system, which includes the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Recent research suggests that the health of the gut is critical because it plays a significant role in ensuring that our bodies function optimally.

The gut is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria that play a crucial role in digestion, immunity, and overall health. These bacteria help to maintain the intestinal lining, ward off harmful pathogens, and synthesize essential vitamins [1].

When the gut is healthy, it can effectively break down food and extract essential substances from it, ensuring our bodies get the nutrients needed to maintain good health.

When the gut is unhealthy, it can lead to various health problems, including digestive disorders, low energy levels, and weakened immunity.

Prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes are three popular supplements used to improve gut health. But what are they and what do they do?

Let’s take a closer look. 


Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that pass undigested through the small intestine and help promote the growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gut. They break down into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate. These SCFAs are important for maintaining healthy gut function and have been associated with numerous health benefits. Prebiotics provide food for beneficial bacteria in the gut and help them to grow and thrive. 

Prebiotics can be found in a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In recent years, they’ve also become a popular supplement due to small but compelling studies that suggest they can assist in overall health. 

Among the benefits associated with their usage are improved gut health, increased nutrient absorption, reduced inflammation, improved immune function, and weight regulation [2,3,4]. They have also been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease [5]. Some studies indicate that prebiotics may even help improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and improve psychological function and mental health [6].



Our digestive system is home to millions of microorganisms, both good and bad. Probiotics are ‘friendly’ bacteria that are beneficial to the human body. They work by introducing beneficial microorganisms (such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) to the digestive system. 

Probiotics can be found in a variety of fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, apple cider vinegar, cheese, pickles, and more. Probiotics supplements are also widely available.

Probiotics can help restore a balance of healthy bacteria in the gut, which can improve digestion, boost immune function, improve skin and oral health, and reduce inflammation [7,8,9]. Additionally, probiotics may compete with harmful bacteria in the gut, preventing them from causing infections or other health problems [10]. Their use is associated with reduced risk of certain types of cancer, as well as lower blood pressure and improved heart health [11,12]. Some types of probiotics are believed to improve the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can have a positive effect on mood and anxiety levels and help regulate mental health [13].

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are proteins secreted by various parts of the digestive system, including the pancreas, stomach and small intestine. These enzymes help break down the food we eat into smaller components that can be absorbed and utilized by the body. The different digestive enzymes in the body target the different macronutrients a person consumes. 

Although the body makes digestive enzymes, they can also be taken as supplements to help improve digestion of food. These supplemental enzymes originate from external sources, such as plants, animals, or bacteria. 

Digestive enzymes are essential to digestion, nutrient absorption, and a healthy gut [14]. But research suggests they can also reduce inflammation and support the treatment of specific digestive conditions, such as lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) [15,16].


Our bodies are complex, with various systems being more connected than we previously realized. While ongoing research is needed, a healthy gut is essential for proper nutrient absorption, immune function, protection against harmful microorganisms, and more. 

If you’re worried about your overall health, a healthy diet and gut are vital. Prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes can each play an important role in whole-body health.




This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.