What is VSL#3?
VSL#3 is a high-strength probiotic that contains 8 strains of probiotic bacteria:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Streptococcus thermophilus
It has a CFU count of 450 billion per sachet, making it one of the highest strength probiotics you can buy.
VSL#3 is described as “A medical food for the dietary management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis or an ileal pouch, that is intended to be used under the supervision of a physician.”
The manufacturers also claim “These bacteria have been purposefully selected, carefully cultivated and mixed proportionately to survive gastric acid, bile and pancreatic secretions, as well as colonise the gut.”
VSL#3 is backed by Scientific Research for some conditions
One of the big plus points of this probiotic supplement is that there are some scientific studies showing that it does live up to it’s claims.
- A 2015 study VSL#3 in Postoperative Crohn’s Disease concluded: The probiotic VSL#3 has anti-inflammatory effects and could reduce endoscopic recurrence after surgery for Crohn’s disease.
- A 2015 review The use of probiotics in pediatric gastroenterology recommended VSL#3 for induction and maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis, and for improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for pediatric gastrointestinal conditions.
- A 2015 study looking at VSL#3 and whether it can help ease symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome found patients had reduced symptom severity scores and abdominal pain duration when treated with VSL#3, as well as satisfaction with bowel movements and quality-of-life.
- Another review paper from 2014 concluded “The multispecies product VSL#3 was found effective in preventing and maintaining remission in pouchitis, whereas both VSL#3 and E. coli Nissle were effective in maintaining remission in Ulcerative Colitis.”
- A 2014 Randomized Controlled Trial (the gold standard in scientific research) evaluated the effects of VSL#3 probiotic and omega-3 fatty acid on insulin sensitivity, blood lipids, and inflammation in 60 overweight healthy adults, aged 40-60 years. The probiotic VSL#3 supplemented group had significant reduction in total cholesterol, triglyceride, LDL, and VLDL and had increased HDL. VSL#3 improved insulin sensitivity, decreased hsCRP, and favorably affected the composition of gut microbiota.
- A 2014 study found that VSL#3 supplementation for 6 months significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization for hepatic encephalopathy and reduced the number of hospitalizations and severity of liver disease in patients with cirrhosis.
- Another 2014 study, also looking at cirrhosis, concluded: Administration of the probiotic mixture VSL#3 improved the hepatic and systemic haemodynamics and serum sodium levels in patients with cirrhosis. Our results identify major effects of probiotics in liver disease and provide the rationale for assessing their therapeutic potential against the progression of portal hypertension and its complications in future clinical trials.
How to take VSL#3
VSL#3 is simple and convenient to take. Simply mix the sachet contents into any cold, non-fizzy drink or sprinkle directly onto cold food, such as yoghurt. VSL#3 can be taken at any time of day. The recommended daily intake is one to two sachets a day.
How does VSL#3 work?
The unique blend of beneficial bacteria in VSL#3 works by colonising the gastrointestinal tract with ‘good’ bacteria. This helps maintain a favourable balance of bacteria in the gut, and keep ‘bad’ bacteria at bay.
How is VSL#3 different from other probiotic products?
VSL#3 is different from other probiotic products because it has the highest available concentration of beneficial bacteria (450 billion per sachet). Most commonly used probiotic preparations only have one to ten billion bacteria. VSL#3 is a blend of eight different bacteria, whereas many other probiotics use a single strain of bacteria.
Where can I buy VSL#3?
You can buy it in pharmacies or order it via this website. VSL#3 is classed as a food supplement so there is no need for a prescription.
How do I take VSL#3?
Just sprinkle on any cold food or in a non-fizzy cold drink such as a cordial.
How much VSL#3 should I take?
The recommended daily intake is one to two sachets a day.
What is the best time of day to take VSL#3?
VSL#3 can be taken at any time during the day – according to your personal preference.
How long does VSL#3 take to become established in the gut?
It is recommended to take VSL#3 for at least one month to see the best benefit. In general it takes up to seven days of taking VSL#3 for the bacteria colonies to become established in the gut. By day 20 the maximum concentration of bacteria will have colonised the gut, this level remains stable while you continue to use VSL# and up to three weeks after discontinuing it.
How long can I take VSL#3?
VSL#3 can be taken every day for as long as you wish to continue.
Does VSL#3 contain any allergens such as gluten?
The VSL#3 production process has been amended and as a result, according to EU allergen labelling regulations, VSL#3 is gluten free and does not contain the following:
- Crustacean shellfish, molluscs, eggs, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, milk and lactose, celery, mustard, sesame, lupin and sulphur dioxide at levels above 10mg/kg, or 10 mg/litre, expressed as SO2
The VSL#3 product packaging and contained patient leaflet are currently being updated to provide information on the allergen free status, and currently, during the transition period, the VSL#3 product packaging and contained patient leaflet continue to have a warning that the product contains traces of gluten, soy, lactose and milk.
Are there any foods I should avoid while taking VSL#3?
No, VSL#3 is generally compatible with any foods you ordinarily eat.
Can I take VSL#3 while on antibiotics?
VSL#3 is believed to be compatible with all types of drugs. Taking VSL#3 with antibiotics will not harm you, but it may reduce the effects of VSL#3.
What is the shelf life of VSL#3?
Sachets should be refrigerated (2-8°C). If unopened and stored under refrigeration, the product is guaranteed until the ‘Best Before’ date, which is 24 months from manufacture.
What happens if VSL#3 is left at room temperature?
It will be fine for about one week without affecting shelf life, as long as VSL#3 is not heated above room temperature (25°C). If it is left at room temperature for long periods of time or exposed to excessive heat for even a short time, the number of live beneficial bacteria can become greatly reduced.
Can I carry VSL#3 in my pocket?
No, it must not be heated above room temperature (25°C) so this should be avoided. Carrying it in an outer garment may be acceptable for short periods of time depending on the temperature.
Is it better to freeze VSL#3?
No, refrigeration at 2-8ºC is best.
What if I experience bloating when I start taking VSL#3?
Bloating can occur during the first few days after starting VSL#3. This is usually a temporary effect and occurs due to the change in the balance of gut bacteria. If you experience bloating, you may need to reduce your daily intake to allow this adjustment.
Are there any adverse effects associated with taking VSL#3?
Adverse events are rarely reported and generally consist of bloating. This is usually a temporary effect and occurs due to the change in the balance of gut bacteria. If you experience bloating, you may need to reduce your daily intake to allow this adjustment.
Probiotics are not recommended in immunocompromised people. If you are undergoing chemotherapy or taking medication that suppresses your immune system, consult your doctor before taking VSL#3.
Can VSL#3 be taken during pregnancy?
Please consult your healthcare professional.