VSL#3: A Remedy for Constipation

Probiotics and their efficacy for individuals with SIBO is a controversial topic for which I have been on both sides.  At times, probiotics have worsened my SIBO symptoms and at other times they have been very beneficial.  But no probiotic formula has been as effective for me as VSL#3.  In this post I will discuss research that has been conducted on VSL#3 in regard to improving symptoms of constipation.  VSL#3 has also been studied for a variety of other conditions- I encourage you to search on PubMed for more information.

Having regular bowel movements is extremely important for detoxification because it is a process by which waste is removed from the body.  Alarmingly, it is estimated that as much as 27.1 percent of the US population suffers from functional constipation [1]. Fortunately, low-risk remedies such as probiotics exist to aid in this important detoxification process.  Studies have indicated that administration of VSL#3 can positively impact symptoms of constipation.  It is unclear whether the benefits of VSL #3 probiotic supplementation are temporary or whether they can provide lasting improvement.

VSL#3 contains eight probiotic strains including Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacilus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Lactobacilus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus.

A 2015 study [2] regarding the efficacy of the probiotic formulation VSL#3 showed positive benefits in individuals with functional constipation selected based on Rome III criteria.  Before administration of the probiotic, lower amounts of bifidobacterium and bacteriodes species were found in the stool of these individuals than in controls.  Seventy percent of individuals with functional constipation noted symptom improvement from administration of the probiotic.  Additionally, participants noted increased frequency of bowel movements from an average of 2.5 +/- 1.3 per week to 6.3 +/- 3.1 per week.  Stool consistency (based on the Bristol Stool Chart) improved from an average of 2.6 +/- 0.7 before treatment to 4.1 +/- 0.9 after the two week probiotic therapy.  Unfortunately, the results were not lasting.  Of the participants who experienced symptom improvement during probiotic administration, 61 percent reported return of hard stools or less frequent bowel movements within one month of the study’s completion.

It appears that VSL#3 may be only a remedy, not a cure.  At a cost of approximately $9-10 per day, administering VSL #3 at the dose utilized in this study may be prohibitive for many individuals.  However, VSL#3 may be an effective and welcomed means of symptom relief for individuals with chronic constipation.  No adverse reactions were noted in the study I analyzed, indicating that these protocols may be safe treatments for promoting elimination and therefore, detoxification.  Of course, it is always recommended that you consult your physician to ensure safety.

References:

[1] Schmier JK, Miller PE, Levine JA, et al. Cost savings of reduced constipation rates attributed to increased dietary fiber intakes: a decision-analytic model. BMC Public Health. 2014;14:374.

[2] Kim SE, Choi SC, Park KS, et al. Change of Fecal Flora and Effectiveness of the Short-term VSL#3 Probiotic Treatment in Patients With Functional Constipation. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2015;21(1):111-20.