Do Probiotics Really Work? My Experience with VSL#3

Last month, I shared a bit of my journey with IBS.

In that post, I mentioned that I was going to start taking a high-potency medical food for the dietary management of IBS called VSL#3. I had used probiotics in the past with varying results, but I had never had the opportunity to test out VSL#3 until now. It is the probiotic that was recommended to me by physicians to help manage my IBS symptoms. For over 15 years, healthcare professionals have trusted VSL#3 to help with the dietary management of serious digestive issues like IBS, so it makes sense that I kept hearing the recommendation from my healthcare professionals time and time again.

When I talked with my doctor recently, she told me that sometimes you have to try different probiotics, because they often have different strains. It’s not one size fits all when it comes to probiotics, especially when it comes to the dietary management of serious gastro conditions. According to a Harris Poll* conducted on behalf of VSL#3, roughly 2 in 5 IBS, UC ileal pouch sufferers (41%) don’t understand which strain of probiotics is best to help treat their symptoms and nearly half of IBS, UC, ileal pouch sufferers.

So I was cautiously optimistic about starting VSL#3, and I wanted to share my 100% honest experience with it. It can be a bit pricey in comparison to other ones (check out the information on their new Patient Savings Program below), but I told Forrest that if it worked I’d be more than willing to foot that bill. Since it is a high-potency probiotic medical food that has been clinically proven to help with the management of IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, and ileal pouch, I figured it was worth a shot.  When choosing a probiotic it is important to look for one that’s been backed by several studies, so do your research.

simple-bolognase-sauce (15 of 15)

I started taking VSL#3 in the beginning of July.

((photo of calendar))

The instructions state that you can take anywhere from two to eight capusles a day, depending on your condition.

When I was about to start them, I recently a very difficult couple of days where I was doubled over in pain from my IBS. I was thinking that if this didn’t help, I would need to visit with my doctor again to come up with a new plan.

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I decided to keep a journal documenting each day and how I felt so I could honestly look back and see if there was a change

((photo of VSL#3 Journal))

For the first few days, I didn’t notice much of difference. About three days in, I looked in the mirror and was SO bloated. I felt like I looked like I was pregnant, and I also experienced a few other symptoms that I read are common when starting VSL#3.

I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to continue – I hate the feeling of being bloated! However, I wasn’t feeling as much pain as I did the days previous, so I didn’t give up.

As with most things, probiotics take time to work.

So for about a week and half I dutifully took VSL#3, and with each day, I felt a little better and a little less bloated.

About two weeks after I started taking them, I can honestly say I felt better than I’ve felt in years. Part of me was a bit worried about it being the placebo effect, however, I actually wasn’t even thinking about taking it. It just became a part of my routine, and one morning, I woke up and thought to myself, “Wait, I actually don’t feel miserable!”

It actually almost made me cry as I thought about how well it was working!

So if you are coming to this post to see if a high-potency probiotic medical food like VSL#3 works, well, it seemed to work for me.

I think VSL#3 is something that you continually need to take for the dietary management of IBS- at least for awhile – to reap the benefits. A study conducted with VSL#3 confirms that maximum bacterial colonization of the gut occurs within 20 days. It’s not really one of those things where you can just take it for a few weeks and think you are good to go. We had to leave town for the last week, and since VSL#3 needs to be refrigerated to maintain its potency, I couldn’t bring it with us. But I found out later it’s easy to transport in a cooler during travel.

Let me just say, after five days of not having my VSL#3 with me I am feeling the effects of IBS again like I used to, though not quite as severe. After daily intake is interrupted, the strains in VSL#3 will survive in the gut for up to three weeks.

I do think it will take time for the full-effects of this probiotic to make a more impactful effect on my digestive system, but my experience from the previous few weeks has me convinced it’s worth taking

VSL#3 is a high-potency probiotic medical food that is clinically proven in the dietary management of the serious digestive issues irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis (UC) and ileal pouch and must be used under medical supervision.  If you experience symptoms of IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, or ileal pouch, you may want to talk to your doctor about trying it (it is recommended that adults get at least 1 billion CFU daily – VSL#3 has at least 112.5 billion CFU in each capsule).  I am convinced that this is truly one of the best probiotics on the market. I used the capsules during the last month.

If you are worried about the cost, now you can take part in VSL#3’s new PatientSavings Program. Simply print out this VSL#3 Patient Savings Card and bring it to your physician to receive a prescription for VSL#3. Then take both the script and the Patient Savings Card to your pharmacy and save up to $80 each month on your purchase of VSL#3 unflavored packets or VSL#3 DS. This is the largest savings ever offered for both VSL#3 and VSL#3 DS. Visit here for more information and talk with your healthcare provider today to take part in the savings program!

VSL#3 is available over the counter but it is kept refrigerated behind the pharmacy counter’s desk to maintain potency. VSL#3 is available in capsules and as an unflavored powder. You can also order it online.

If you’re looking for a probiotic, here are a few things to look for in a probiotic food:

  • Look for the specific probiotic strains included – it’s not necessarily as important to have a large number of one kind of strain, but it is important to have at least three according to Dr. David Williams, a researcher, chiropractor, and biochemist. VSL#3 is formulated with eight strains of live lactic acid bacteria.
  • How many bacteria per serving – It is suggested that adults should take at least one billion cells (also called colony-forming units or CFU’s) daily – though more is better!
  • How it is stored and packaged – I really recommend looking into the packaging – this can really affect how well the product works. You don’t want to take a probiotic that is essentially dead! Make sure the packaging protects the probiotic from being exposed to too much moisture and maintains potency. VSL#3 has triple layer packaging to do just that!
  • Expiration Date

I hope that you found my journey to be interesting and informative. I really look forward to continuing to take VSL#3, as it has worked far better than any other kind of probiotic I’ve taken for the dietary management of IBS, and I truly have felt relief from my IBS symptoms.

Up to 20% of adults experience symptoms from IBS, so I think knowing about probiotics is important. Even if you feel like your digestive system is healthy, I think taking at least the minimum of 1 billion CFU daily can help prevent future problems – especially since most people are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50!

*Harris Poll conducted the GI Issues Survey on behalf of VSL#3. The survey was administered online within the United States between April 1 – 7, 2015 among 607 adult’s ages 18+ who have been diagnosed with a digestive or gastrointestinal condition, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis, ileal pouch (“sufferers”).

Join VSL#3 on Facebook for more information and giveaways, and also find delicious low-FODMAP recipes, which can help manage IBS symptoms as well! #VSLTheJourneyBack

Do Probiotics

VSL#3® is a high-potency probiotic medical food that’s clinically proven in the dietary management of IBS, ulcerative colitis, and ileal pouch. To learn more visit and LIKE the brand on Facebook

This is a product-provided, sponsored conversation that contains affiliate links. All opinions, text and experiences are my own. VSL#3 is a high-potency probiotic medical food for the dietary management of IBS, UC and ileal pouch and must be used under medical supervision. Please speak with your healthcare provider for any specific questions. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


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