Can Enzymes, Probiotics, and Prebiotics Work Together in One Product?


Formulators are increasingly interested in combining enzymes with probiotics, but what are the challenges?

Photo © Marchal

Photo © Marchal

Call it the digestive trifecta, the enzymatic-probiotic smash, or just the union of three booming categories. No matter the name there appears to be a growing interest in combining enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics in a single product. And that has enzyme firms investing in new research and exploring the formulating challenges of these pairings.

At the recent Natural Products Expo West trade show, enzymes supplement company Enzymedica (Venice, FL) spoke with Nutritional Outlook about the potential for enzymes and probiotics to work together for enhancing gut flora. Enzymedica has offered probiotic/enzyme combination products for several years, including its Digest Gold Plus Probiotics and Women’s 50+ Enzyme Nutrition multi-vitamin, but interest in these kinds of pairings has become especially pronounced lately, says Stephanie Helton, marketing manager, Enzymedica.

“A lot of probiotic companies have started looking into ways to have enzymes in their formulas or to bring out their own enzyme lines,” says Helton.

Enzymes supplier Deerland Enzymes (Kennesaw, GA) has also seen more of its customers interested in combining probiotics, enzymes, and even prebiotics in a single product. 

“We’re starting to see a lot more [interest], and as a matter of fact so much so that we’re going to invest a significant amount of money now to do clinical [studies] on the combinations of the products and various combinations, because of not only what we’re realizing in sales, but just the feedback we’re getting from the market is nothing short of stellar from this,” says Scott Ravech, CEO for Deerland Enzymes.


A Fraught Relationship?

Yet, despite the possible advantages of combining enzymes and probiotics, there has also been some resistance to the marriage of these two digestive-health heavyweights, says David Barton, director of education for Enzymedica. When Enzymedica first launched probiotic/enzyme combination products more than six years ago, Barton says some enzyme companies were opposed to the marriage and “put out statements and arguments saying enzymes destroy probiotics.” He sees this as a skewed portrayal of the facts.

“What they’re overlooking is probiotics make enzymes,” says Barton. “Enzymes don’t haphazardly destroy probiotics, otherwise probiotics couldn’t live at all. They would kill themselves. What their statement is based on is what happens in a petri dish. But in the gut, where [probiotics are] colonizing and they’re having their families and they’re in the right environment, they’re making tens of thousands enzymes with no problem at all.”

Deerland Enzymes’ Ravech agrees that enzymes and probiotics can be “very complementary.”

“While you get the enzymes that are driving the nutritional uptake of the food, you get the probiotics that are giving you good digestive balance and flora,” says Ravech. “So I think they’re just kind of a hand-in-glove fit.”


Good, Better, Best

Beyond just probiotics and enzymes, Deerland Enzymes is also adding its PreforPro prebiotic to these combinations to further enhance the health benefits. Of course, the product price point increases with the addition of different ingredient types, and Ravech explains it can be a balancing act to find the right potency. He describes Deerland Enzymes' thinking as a “good, better, best” approach, where enzymes alone are good, enzymes plus probiotics are better, and enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics together are best.

“You try to find that point for which someone who can truly benefit at just the broad spectrum digestive [enzyme] blends can just get that,” explains Ravech. “Somebody who needs something a little bit more that might be inclusive of a probiotic will get to the next price point, but also to the next efficacy point. And then someone who wants the prebiotic, the probiotic, and the enzymes, where maybe they have things that are a little bit more severe in their symptomology, can take advantage of that as well.”

As far as existing research into the health benefits of these pairings, Ravech says it’s been relatively limited but promising so far. Deerland Enzymes is currently working on a large clinical study of the various combinations of probiotics, prebiotics, and enzymes that will continue into 2017, Ravech says.

“We’re making this investment because so much more of our business is including probiotics in the mix,” explains Ravech.


Best Product Types

Another factor to consider is the types of products that are appropriate for both probiotics and enzymes. Although some spore probiotics, such as Deerland Enzymes’ DE111 strain of Bacillus subtilis, can be heated and boiled for food applications, enzymes and non-spore probiotics don’t offer the same flexibility.

“Your biggest challenge as you might expect in both cases, especially with non-spore probiotics [and enzymes], is you want to do it in a dry environment,” says Ravech. “You want to make sure that all the raw materials are being looked at for their water activity, because that’s what activates the enzymes is the moisture, and so if you don’t have a dry state that it’s going into then you could potentially start to lose potency.”

For that reason, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages are currently out of reach for enzymes, although enzymes powders that are mixed in a liquid immediately before consumption might be an option. Cold-pressed bars might also be a possibility, although capsules still remain the most popular delivery system for enzymes, says Ravech.

But aside from the characteristic limitations of probiotics and enzymes, Ravech explains that it's not usually a challenge combining the two in one product.

“We don’t see too much negative interaction,” says Ravech.


Read more:

Future Applications for Enzyme Supplements

Microbiome and Emerging Research to Unlock Probiotic Mysteries?

Combining Spore-Forming, Non-Spore Probiotic Strains Ensures High CFU Count, Firm Says


Michael Crane
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook Magazine

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