In the past, I’ve never believed that probiotic supplements should be an essential part of someones daily supplement regime. To me, the idea of having the correct balance of ‘friendly bacteria’ never seemed like something that I should take seriously.
My view on this has now changed.
Recently I’ve been researching a bit more into my apparent stomach bloating and came across a concept called Leaky Gut Syndrome. I won’t go into the details here, but this sounded like something that I may have been experiencing.
One of the steps to healing leaky gut is to begin taking probiotics. With this in mind, I decided I wanted to take a probiotic and didn’t mind paying a higher price for a quality probiotic supplement.
This is when I decided to try out VSL#3 probiotics.
What is VSL#3?
VSL#3 is known to have the highest concentration of helpful bacteria; it has 450 billion live bacteria in one packet. The human stomach usually has thousands of billions of bacteria.
For you to regulate the composition of your stomach flora, you will need a big amount of probiotic bacteria. VSL#3 turns out to be the only preparation that offers enough bacteria to help the gut bacteria in people with severe intestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, or Ileal pouch.
How Does VSL#3 Work?
VSL# 3 works by supplying the gastrointestinal tract with ideal quantities and types of good bacteria. These bacteria attach to the walls of the GI tract and create a barrier that shields the inner layer of the stomach from pathogenic/bad bacteria and other harmful substances that can lead to inflammation by modulating intestinal defence mechanisms.
It also regulates a number of substances that are associated with inflammation healing. VSL#3 also minimises intestinal fluid flow rate by tightening up all the junctions between the stomach cells in the epithelium. If these spaces between the stomach cells wall enlarge, bad bacteria and toxins can easily flow through, leading to inflammation.
Each dose of VSL#3 contains a combination of 8 live freeze-dried probiotic bacteria namely:
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Streptococcus thermophilus
It is this particular combination of poly-biotics that can help improve symptoms of bloating and pain.
Why Is VSL #3 One of the Best Probiotic Supplements?
This supplement has the highest CFU count of live bacteria, unlike any other probiotic supplement out there. Their capsules usually have 112.5 billion live lactic acid bacteria, whilst their sachet product contains 450 billion. If you look at most other probiotic supplements they will usually average around 30 billion.
What is the Research into VSL#3?
This product is licensed to be prescribed for pouchitis treatment. This is after several clinical studies with one showing that it can be effective for treating mild pouchitis.
Another study has shown that VSL#3 can offer responses and remissions in patients suffering from mild-to-moderately active ulcerative colitis. The results showed remission in 77% of UC patients with acute effects.
VSL#3 Product Options
VSL# 3 is a probiotic supplement that is usually marketed under the medical food category. It contains a high-potency enclosed probiotic found in both non-prescription and prescription strengths.
If you are wondering what medical foods are they are foods that meet 3 basic requirements:
- Always required to be taken under a doctor’s supervision
- Give a specific nutritional need regarding a certain disease, which is unable to be met by a diet on its own
- Is meant for dietary management of a specific disease or condition
This probiotic comes in four options. These products are differentiated by their intake method and the required quantity that they offer. The powder option comes in various flavours and is best consumed after mixing it with water.
The different options include:
- Basic Capsules: these deliver 112.5 billion live bacteria
- Junior Packets: contain 225 billion of live bacteria
- Regular Packets: contain 450 billion live bacteria
- Double Strength Packets: has 900 billion live bacteria and are prescription only
My Experience with VSL
I first heard about VSL#3 on a couple of YouTube videos mentioning that it was a good probiotic. Another probiotic that frequently popped up was Prescript-Assist. However, at the time of my research, the listing of Prescript-Assist on Amazon had a lot of warnings from fellow customers that the product being sent out to them was not real. I decided to not take the risk at all and go with VSL#3.
*Later Edit: This problem regarding Prescript Assist appears to now have been fixed on Amazon
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Once I had chosen VSL#3 I then had to choose which version to go with. I wanted to take my gut healing diet seriously so I decided to go with the strongest dose and go with that for at least 30 days.
Delivery Needs to be Cold
I ordered straight off the official VSL#3 website as they had a promotion to try out their new ambient delivery service (available in the UK) where there is no need to send the boxes in an ice pack. I’ll elaborate on this.
The VSL#3 packets must be kept in the fridge to ensure that the living bacteria remain alive. At too high a temperature they will die, however, VSL#3 can be kept out of the fridge for up to 7 days as long as the weather or outside temperature isn’t too hot. If the weather is over 20 degrees they will not send the package out. Since I ordered this in the UK during October, this was not a problem and they sent the package out the day after I ordered.
* I attempted to see if VSL.com provided this service for US residents but their website blocked me from their online store because I was located in the UK (never seen this happen before!)
However, If you want to buy the VSL#3 packs, Amazon.com is a great option because they will ship it to you in a refrigerated ice pack, which means you can order them all year round regardless of the temperature.
The VSL#3 Packaging and Contents
Delivery was fast and very convenient. Due to the ambient delivery option, there was nothing to sign for and the box fit right through my letterbox.
Regarding the packaging, it came well packaged and I got 3 boxes containing 10 sachets each for a total of 30 sachets. Each sachet comes well sealed and should be kept in the fridge at all times.
You can take up to 1 to 2 sachets per day mixed in with your food or a cold drink. Personally, I went with 2 per day (1 in the morning and evening) with the plan of going down to 1 per day for a further 90 days and then re-evaluate my dosage then (I bought 3 boxes in total). As I stated earlier, I have not had an official diagnosis from a doctor so I took it as I felt best suited my needs.
The precise dosages are as follows:
- For IBS, take 2-4 capsules daily or ½ to 1 full packet of powder
- For Ulcerative Colitis, you should take 4-8 capsules or 1 to 2 powder packets daily
- For Pouchitis, take 2-4 powder packets daily
- For Active Ulcerative Colitis, take 4-8 powder packets daily
- For patients with Active Ulcerative Colitis, their dose may be required to be high, specifically at first.
Always follow the doctor’s advice on the correct dose and frequency of the VSL#3 probiotic formula.
VSL#3 Side Effects
Although I didn’t notice any side-effects here are some that are possible:
- Consistent urge to visit the toilet that might lead to diarrhoea at first, which is normal
- Excessive gas and bloating
- Abdominal pains
Talk to your doctor before taking this supplement. Also, you can try to reduce the dose if abdominal pains become severe.
One important thing to take into consideration is that if you do experience side-effects, it can be a positive sign that your gut is adapting to the new bacteria and is detoxing. So if you are taking VSL#3 and notice these symptoms, don’t automatically assume they are negative signs. Most likely it is a sign that they are working. VSL#3 point out that positive results are usually seen after one month of taking them.
The sad thing I’ve seen from reading reviews of VSL#3 is that many people have experienced such adverse side effects that they have given up on the product completely.
So How Effective Is VSL#3?
Initially, when I wrote this review I only covered my experience under ‘1 month in’. I have now added an additional section detailing my thoughts 6 months down the line.
1 Month After VSL#3
Since I’ve been taking VSL#3 I have seen considerable improvements in my bloating and I do have a much more naturally flatter stomach since taking them. However, I wouldn’t be confident enough to say that VSL#3 was the sole reasons this happened as I have been supporting my gut health with other new healthy habits during my gut regeneration period.
Such habits include eating no processed foods, staying away from gluten, dairy, using digestive enzyme supplements at meals and eating smaller amounts of food overall.
That being said, I do feel as though they have played their part somehow. As I said earlier, I do plan to drop my intake to 1 per day for the next 90 days then after that, I will evaluate. I would love to take VSL#3 every day over the long term but the fact that they are quite pricey makes me want to rethink this. What I am likely to do is once the 90 days are up, I will then start taking them once per week just to maintain my gut health.
6 Months+ After Taking VSL#3
I continued taking VSL#3 as planned and finished my protocol of doing 1 a week until my batch was finished a few months ago. Since then I really do feel much better in the stomach. After meals, everything feels very comfortable even though I am not taking VSL#3 currently.
As I wrote earlier I cannot say with 100% certainty that VSL#3 is the sole cause of my now better functioning stomach, however, I feel out of all the things I tried, it was the number factor.
What I imagine happened is that before taking VSL#3 the bacteria in my stomach was severely out of balance with the bad outweighing the good. Before this time I had never taken any form of probiotics.
The fact that my diet also wasn’t great only helped the bad bacteria thrive. By taking VSL#3 I feel it restored the initial balance which has been out of whack for many years. Since then my bloating has gone done and I have a lot less gas.
Just over a week ago, I decided that I wanted to take an easy-to-take probiotic (that didn’t need to be refrigerated) again to maintain the level of bacteria and benefits I have gained since taking VSL#3. After all, its been a couple of months since I stopped taking VSL#3.
The only problem was whilst looking I could not find a good alternative. I did mention I wanted to try out Prescript-Assist, however, in the UK it’s not readily available. This is the same for VSL#3 in capsule form, with the company behind VSL#3 only making them available in sachet form in the UK.
Nonetheless, I decided to go again with VSL#3 buying them in sachet form and ordering another box of 30. What I plan to do is to take one a week since I only want to maintain my stomach health. Doing the math, a box will last me over half a year and I think that’s well worth the cost.
Advantages of VSL #3
- Optimised for digestive health – This supplement will help any individual with sensitive guts or other inflammatory bowel problems by supplying them with an everyday strengthened increase of strong probiotics to raise digestive capacity and everyday comfort.
- Super strong– VSL#3 is one of the strongest probiotics you will find on the market. With 450 billion CFU, it was the first strongest probiotic to be introduced to the market. You can even get a version with 900 billion CFU for every dose.
- Extensively studied – VSL#3 is one of the few products that have undergone through extensive clinical studies.
- Free of most allergens– VSL#3 is gluten free, nut free, shellfish free, soy free, and GMO-free. However, it does contain traces of dairy.
- Even if you don’t have any existing digestive problems, VSL#3’s good bacteria can help balance your gut function leading to proper intake of nutrients.
Disadvantages of VSL#3
Below are four reasons why this might not be the right probiotic for you:
- Side Effects – If any product turns out to be too strong for you, you can end up with side effects. This product might make you experience probiotic negative effects.
- Expensive– VSL#3 is expensive. There is no doubt about it. If you do not have stomach issues or any bloating then you may not need to spend this much on a probiotic supplement.
- Refrigeration – This probiotic requires refrigeration, which might not be ideal for frequent travellers.
- Has to be taken with food or drink – VSL#3 in sachet form is not as easy or hassle-free as taking it in a capsule.
- Contains trace amounts of dairy– although this product is free of gluten and soy, it has traces of dairy, which could be harmful to those with lactose intolerance.
You can buy VSL#3 from Amazon where you will also get some great reviews from genuine customers who have used this probiotic supplement.
Final Verdict on VSL#3
I do recommend that if you feel you have bad gut health or suffer from problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or need a probiotic as part of a leaky gut treatment plan, that you take VSL#3 over a period of time to balance out the bacteria in your stomach.
Of course, you may need to check with your doctor beforehand.
I would also not be afraid of the cost of VSL#3 because even though they are expensive, your health is more important. Once you see progress, you can either stop or reduce your dose, or even move onto a cheaper probiotic as maintenance which is what I have done.
The biggest disadvantage of VSL#3 is that many may find taking it with a drink or food much more cumbersome than taking it as a capsule.
If VSL#3 is readily available in capsule form in your country then this could be a viable option. However, I wouldn’t be able to say if the capsules are as effective the VSL#3 sachets.
I’m not getting paid or sponsored by VSL#3 but I do believe in promoting things that have worked well for me. This is one reason I find it hard to recommend anything else but VSL#3 especially if you do experience bloating, gas or an uncomfortable stomach.
More than 15% of adults experience Irritable Bowel Movement, making probiotics very important for them. Even if you feel like you have a healthy digestive system, it is advisable to take at least 1billion CFU on a daily basis to prevent any future problems.
However, if you want to turbo boost your gut health then VSL#3 could be well worth a try.
If after you have read this you feel that VSL#3 may be too expensive or even too complexed for your needs. Head over to our post to view other best probiotic supplements worth trying.
Last update on 2019-03-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API