We've all seen the headlines telling us that good gut health is the secret to optimum health and wellbeing - but how exactly do we achieve this? Well, the good news is there are lots of ways we can look after our digestive system and take care of our gut - such as keeping an eye on our stress levels, getting enough sleep and eating a diverse diet with 30g fibre per day.
Some people may also feel the benefits of consuming probiotics - either in yoghurt, as a supplement or in probiotic drinks. Read on to find out more…
What are probiotic drinks?
A probiotic drink is a beverage that, through some form of fermentation, contains probiotics. Examples include kombucha (fermented tea), kefir (fermented milk) and live yoghurt drinks.
What are the health benefits of probiotic drinks?
Firstly, it is important to remember that probiotic drinks can’t work miracles. If you want to improve your gut health, you need to adopt a holistic approach and focus on a multitude of factors including: managing your stress levels, implementing a good sleep routine, chewing your food fully, staying hydrated, fuelling your body with nourishing food (aiming for 30 plant based foods a week and 30g fibre a day) and participating in regular exercise.
Some people may find that consuming probiotic drinks helps their gut health — and they are certainly a better choice than artificial or sugary drinks — but it all depends on what your initial symptoms are.
Although some probiotic strains have been shown to reduce symptoms of gut issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), others don’t. If you have ongoing gut issues such as bloating, constipation or diarrhoea, you should use a diary to track your symptoms and make an appointment to see a health care practitioner (HCP) who will be able to offer individualised support and may refer you to a registered dietitian (RD).
Are digestive enzymes the same as probiotics?
No… enzymes are rather different to probiotics - although they both have a part to play in promoting good digestive health.
Digestive enzymes are molecules that help break down different macronutrients (e.g. carbohydrates, fats and proteins) in the food we eat, whilst probiotics are live microorganisms that make up the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Probiotics support digestive enzymes by helping to keep the gut healthy - however, only enzymes have the ability to break down and digest food.
Both can be altered by a number of factors including medication, stress and dietary choices, so it is important to be mindful of how our daily lives may impact our guts. Absence of a good gut bacteria can result in a host of symptoms including gas, bloating, IBS and/or fatigue - which may be indicative of an underlying problem. As mentioned above, if you experience any of these issues, it is a good idea to make an appointment to see your HCP who will be able to investigate further and offer individualised guidance.
Tell me more about prebiotics, probiotics and digestive enzymes…
All three help the digestive system in different ways. Let’s dig a little deeper…
Prebiotics are indigestible natural fibres (typically types of complex carbohydrates) which can’t be broken down by the human body, so have negligible calorific value and do not provide us with energy. Although we can’t digest them, they still have a key role in promoting good gut health by selectively stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in the body. Although they can be taken as a supplement, they are also found naturally in lots of plant-based foods such as onions, leeks, garlic, lentils, dragon fruit, apples, sweet potatoes, nuts and oats.
As mentioned above, probiotics are live microorganisms (often called the ‘good bacteria’) that can offer many health benefits. They help get rid of harmful bacteria to help keep the gut healthy and flourishing. Since an estimated 70% of our immune system is based in our gut, taking care of our digestive health is a key way to support our overall well being. Probiotics are naturally found in foods with cultures of live yeast or bacteria — such as yoghurt, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut — but are also available in a supplement form. However, since probiotics are classed as food, rather than medicine, they don't undergo the rigorous testing medicines do. If you have an existing health condition or weakened immune system, you should contact your HCP before taking any probiotic supplements.
As previously mentioned, digestive enzymes are proteins made by the body which are designed to help break down food and aid digestion (the process which extracts the nutrients from food to give the body energy to grow, repair and carry out vital functions). Digestion starts in the mouth - as soon as we eat a meal or snack, our saliva begins to break down the food so our body can absorb it. As we continue to digest the food, lots of different digestive enzymes will be released and activated in various parts of the gastrointestinal tract (allowing chemical reactions to take place and break down the food). The main ones are:
Amylase (breaks down complex carbohydrates) - produced in the salivary glands and pancreas.
Lipase (breaks down fats) - produced in the pancreas.
Protease (breaks down proteins) - produced in the pancreas.
Other common enzymes include:
Lactase (breaks down lactose) - produced in the small intestine.
Sucrase (breaks down sucrose) - produced in the small intestine.
Are probiotic drinks or enzyme drinks better?
Both digestive enzymes and probiotics are needed for a healthy digestive system. They have a complementary relationship with the former helping to break down food and the latter helping to promote a healthy gut microbiome - thus one isn’t ‘better’ than the other. Both can ease gut symptoms such as bloating, and help build a strong immune system, as well as help you stay hydrated without relying on artificial and sugary drinks.
Also consider what works for your lifestyle. Whilst probiotic drinks have to be chilled, you may find that your enzyme drink doesn’t. When we created JIN JIN, we wanted to make a delicious concentrated enzyme cordial that could be enjoyed anytime, anywhere. It is full of nourishing natural ingredients, complex enzymes and living cultures which can survive between 4-40°C - so does not require refrigeration (although we recommend storing in a cool dry place, away from direct sunlight) and is perfect for supporting your digestive health when out and about and on-the-go.
DISCLAIMER: All health and nutrition content on JIN JIN is for general information only, and should not be viewed as a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any health concerns, you should contact your local health care provider.