VSL#3 Probiotic: Ulcerative Colitis and IBS

calm stomachVSL#3 is one of the strongest probiotics available at 450 billion bacteria per packet.  To put this in perspective, Align, a probiotic promoted to help Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), has only 1 billion bacteria per dose.  The high concentration of good bacteria in VSL#3 may allow it to positively impact more serious and chronic conditions than other probiotics can.

Why Probiotics?

Probiotics are good bacteria.  Good bacteria have a number of purposes in the body.   One of their big jobs is to reduce inflammation, a hyperactive immune response associated with allergies as well as with more serious illnesses like ulcerative colitis.  At the same time, good bacteria prime your immune system to attack viruses.  Probiotics seem to be associated with an all around reduction in “bad” immunity with a simultaneous increase in “good” immunity.

Reduced numbers of these friendly helpers may contribute to weakened immunity and allergies, as well as inflammatory GI tract illnesses like ulcerative colitis (UC) and irritable bowel syndrome(IBS).

Research with VSL#3 over the the last decade has shown that replenishing the gut with a high dose of good bacteria can often put people with inflammatory bowel disease into remission and keep them in remission.  Researchers have also found a benefit for IBS with VSL#3

Ulcerative Colitis

In a 2009 study, VSL#3 treated patients achieved a remission rate of  32.5% after 6 weeks, a rate 50% higher than placebo.   At 12 weeks, the VSL#3 remission rate was up to 42.9%, while the placebo remission rate hovered around 15%.

A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed a 53% remission rate in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis that was unresponsive to conventional drugs. An additional 24% responded, but did not achieve remission, for a combined response/remission rate of 77%.   There were no adverse events.

Children With Ulcerative Colitis

In a 2009 trial, VSL#3 was compared to a placebo treatment, both in combination included conventional drug therapy a group of children newly diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. 92.8% of the children in the VSL#3 group achieved remission while only 36.3% of the conventional therapy group reached remission.  Measurements of intestinal damage and inflammation were consistently lower in the VSL#3 group of kids.

In another study, VSL#3 treated children with mild to moderate acute ulcerative colitis had a remission rate of 56%, and a combined remission and response rate of 61%.

Pouchitis With Ulcerative Colitis Surgery

Pouchitis is the most significant long-term complication of the ulcerative colitis surgery known as ileal-pouch anal anastomosis. Patients with pouchitis were treated with 1,800 billion bacteria twice per day.  69% went into remission and 100% of those patients were successfully maintained on 1,800 billion bacteria per day for the remainder of the 6 month study.

In another study, patients with recurrent or treatment resistant pouchitis were put in remission with conventional treatment.  85% of the group who subsequently received  VSL#3 remained in remission while only 6% of the placebo group stayed in remission a year later.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic and troubling condition of the gut whose symptoms can include pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.  VSL#3 has been shown to help with at least two IBS symptoms.

In adults with IBS, a 2003 study  linked VSl#3 to significantly less IBS related bloating in a 2003. A 2005 study showed VSL#3 to be associated with reduced flatulence.

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