Don't Let IBS Hold You Back

I am excited to share this sponsored post with you, focusing on IBS (something that I have written about here on the blog before) and the role that probiotics can play in relieving some of the nasty symptoms of this condition. When VSL#3 asked me to share about their product and their recent #Don’tLetIBSHoldYouBack campaign, I was excited because I am always keen to spread as much awareness about IBS as I can.

IBS Sucks…

It’s no secret that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sucks for many different reasons. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, IBS is actually a pretty common condition that affects between 10-15% of the general population. It is a functional gut disorder that affects the way that muscles of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) work, and how signals between the GIT and the brain are sent. The pain and discomfort caused by IBS is highly variable between people and even within the same person on different days and times.

For those that suffer from IBS, symptoms including bloating, flatulence, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, constipation are known to have a significant impact on work life, relationships, recreational activities, sleep quality, mental health, and overall quality of life. Results from a recent IBS Network Survey illustrate the extent to which IBS affects the quality of life of these patients, as you can see in the infographic below. For some, these symptoms might just be slightly irritating, whilst for others IBS can be rather debilitating. As someone who suffers from IBS, I know how awful it can feel when symptoms flare up and you just can’t quite figure out how to manage it all in amongst the demands of everyday life!

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What causes IBS?

Unlike other gastrointestinal-related conditions, there are actually no specific clinical diagnostic tests that can confirm IBS because of the fact that there is no one specific known cause for IBS. Practitioners always need to rule out 'red flags' like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colotis, colon cancer, and stomach ulcers before diagnosing IBS using the Rome IV Criteria. Although there is no one thing that causes IBS, the condition does have several common features:

  • Having a bout of food poisoning or gastroenteritis, and subsequent immune system overactivity, is known to increase the risk of developing IBS

  • Gut dysbiosis due to antibiotic use

  • Gut endothelial damage

  • Psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks

  • Visceral hypersensitivity

At the moment, most of the treatment available for IBS involves managing these symptoms as best we can through things like diet, the use of specific probiotics, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy, relaxation techniques to help manage stress and anxiety, antispasmodic medication, anti-depressants, and regular movement.

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The Gut Microbiome and IBS

Although at the moment we don’t know what the ‘perfect’ gut microbiota composition is, the general scientific consensus is that higher gut microbial diversity and density is associated with better health. Gut dysbiosis is one of the important factors that plays a critical role in the disease process of IBS. A recent study found that there are some differences in the gut microbial composition of individuals with IBS and those who don’t suffer from it. Furthermore, studies have shown that there may be different microorganisms that predominate in each of the IBS sub-groups. The gut microbiota forms a crucial link in the interactions between the gut and the nervous system, and alterations, such psychological distress or gastrointestinal infections, can affect these interactions and contribute to the development and/or affect the course of IBS.

One of the things that can cause gut dysbiosis is antibiotic use. Antibiotics not only kill off many of the ‘good guys’ along with harmful bacteria that cause illness, but also allow other harmful bacteria to take root and colonise the gut when our normal, healthy balance is disturbed. It is inevitable that we will need to use antibiotics at some point in our lives (they’re an amazing discovery for humankind, but are unfortunately very over-used), so it when this does happen we need to think about taking a good quality probiotic during and after treatment in order to try and maintain a healthy gut microbiota.


What is VSL#3?

VSL#3 is a freeze-dried poly-biotic (a probiotic formulation containing many different types of live bacteria) that contains a high concentration of beneficial bacteria, including several strains of the all-important lactobacilli and bifidobacteria:

  • Streptococcus thermophilus

  • Bifidobacterium breve

  • Bifidobacterium longum

  • Bifidobacterium infantis

  • Lactobacillus paracasei

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus

  • Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus

  • Lactobacillus plantarum


These 8 strains have been selected due to their known ability to help improve IBS symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, and abdominal pain. Each sachet of VSL#3 contains 450 billion bacteria, which are carefully cultivated, mixed proportionally, and formulated in a way that allows them to survive gastric acid, bile, and pancreatic secretions, which means that they are able to arrive in the colon in sufficient quantities to have an impact. Now this formulation doesn’t just sound like a cool idea, it has been tested in a number of small clinical trials and has been shown to relieve IBS symptoms in many IBS patients within 4-8 weeks, helping to restore their quality of life. This poly-biotic is also super easy to incorporate into your day-to-day routine, as VSL#3 sachets can be consumed with any cold, non-fizzy drink or mixed into a cold food such as yoghurt and smoothies at any time of the day.

Win with VSL#3!

Over the next week, I will be running a competition with VSL#3 where we want to hear more about how you #Don’tLetIBSHoldYouBack. We have a copy of Michael Mosley’s book “The Clever Guts Diet” up for grabs for two lucky winners, so make sure to head over to my Instagram page to enter!

Read more about VSL#3

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I received financial compensation in exchange for working with VSL#3 to share this post about their product, including the infographic and product-specific information included here. I always carefully choose what brands to work with, and will only ever share products and services that I truly believe in.

It is recommended that, if you choose to use this product to find relief from IBS symptoms, you discuss it as part of your IBS treatment and management strategy with your primary healthcare provider. Although VSL#3 has been proven to significantly relieve IBS symptoms in a number of studies, it is important to note that the diversity of IBS pathophysiology, patient heterogeneity, and lack of clear and reproducible evidence for gut microbiota abnormalities in patients with IBS, additional good-quality RCTs with appropriate end points and design are needed in future for determining the extent and in which IBS subpopulations specific probiotics are useful for managing IBS symptoms.


[1] Tap J, Derrien M, Törnblom H, Brazeilles R, Cools-Portier S, Doré J, Störsrud S, Le Nevé B, Öhman L, Simrén M. Identification of an Intestinal Microbiota Signature Associated With Severity of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2017 Jan;152(1):111-23

[2] Distrutti E, Monaldi L, Ricci P, Fiorucci S. Gut microbiota role in irritable bowel syndrome: New therapeutic strategies. World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Feb;22(7):2219-41.

[3] Moser G, Fournier C, Peter J. Intestinal microbiome-gut-brain axis and irritable bowel syndrome. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2018;168(3):62-6.

[4] Kim HJ, Camilleri M, McKinzie S, Lempke MB, Burton DD, Thomforde GM, Zinsmeister AR. A randomized controlled trial of a probiotic, VSL#3, on gut transit and symptoms in diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Apr;17(1):895-904.

[5] Kim HJ, Vazquez Roque MI, Camilleri M, Stephens D, Burton DD,Baxter K, Thomforde G, Zinsmeister AR. A randomized controlled trial of a probiotic combination VSL# 3 and placebo in irritable bowel syndrome with bloating. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2005 Jun;17(5):687-96.

[6] Wong RK, Yang C, Song GH, Wong J, Ho KY. Melatonin regulation as a possible mechanism for probiotic (VSL#3) in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized double-blinded placebo study. Dig Dis Sci. 2015 Jan;60(1):186-94.

[7] de Boer W, Otten MH, Man WK, Hing A. Sa2070 VSL#3®, a Probiotic Combination, Reduces the Severity of Abdominal Pain and Bloating and Improves Quality of Life in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Data From a Multi-Centre, Prospective, Observational Study. Gastroenterol. 2012 May;142(5):S-394.