Knowing The Difference Between Probiotics Is More Than A Gut Feeling

Newly Released Results of Survey by VSL#3 Show Sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitis Are Trying to Manage Their Symptoms but Many Don't Know What to Look for When Choosing a Probiotic; Top Gastroenterologist Advises to Be Your Own Advocate and Educate Yourself

Nov 23, 2015, 06:30 ET from VSL#3

GAITHERSBURG, Md., Nov. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- According to recently released results of an online survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of VSL#3 ( amongst 607 U.S. adults ages 18+ who have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis (UC) or ileal pouch/ 1, virtually all (98%) have attempted to manage their symptoms by: making changes to their diet on their own (61%), speaking with their healthcare practitioner (HCP) about the best methods to ease their symptoms (58%) and/or taking a probiotic (49%). Taking probiotics has grown in popularity based on the proliferation of probiotic supplements now on store shelves. However, this survey showed that more than half of adults (55%) do not know what to look for when choosing a probiotic, and a similar proportion, 54%, say they are confused by the array of probiotics available on store shelves.

HCPs not educating patients

While it's encouraging that 71% of IBS, UC and ileal sufferers have spoken to their HCPs about probiotics, only about 1 in 10 (10%) indicates that their HCP is educating them about which probiotic will be best for their condition, and only 13% of HCPs are telling their patients that some probiotics on the store shelf may not help with their specific gastro condition. In addition, only 10% reported that their HCP recommended a specific brand or strain of over-the-counter probiotics for their condition, and more commonly, about 1 in 4 recommended lifestyle or diet changes (24%) or yogurt with live bacteria (22%) to help manage their symptoms. Seven out of 10 IBS, UC, and ileal pouch sufferers have not spoken with a pharmacist about probiotics (70%) and only 13% of IBS, UC, and ileal pouch sufferers say their pharmacist recommended a specific probiotic.

Board certified gastroenterologist Patricia Raymond, M.D., author and professional speaker, shares, "A probiotic should be chosen based upon the desired outcome and for specific health conditions, such as VSL#3, which has been clinically proven to be beneficial in the dietary management of IBS, UC and ileal pouch. Simply taking any probiotic in a pill or whatever form does not render you healthy. There are numerous published studies, which have proven that different strains of bacteria yield different health benefits," continues Dr. Raymond. "It's important to be an advocate for yourself when it comes to managing serious gastro conditions, don't just sit idle. Talk with your doctor and/or your pharmacist and do a little research so you can participate in your plan of care."

The following are additional highlights of the VSL#3 survey amongst IBS, UC and ileal pouch/sufferers:

Knowledge about Probiotics:

  • Nearly half of IBS, UC, ileal pouch/ sufferers (46%) believe all probiotics are pretty much the same.
  • Roughly 2 in 5 IBS, UC, ileal pouch/ sufferers (41%) don't understand which strain of probiotics is best to help treat their symptoms.
  • Nearly half of IBS, UC, ileal pouch/ sufferers (49%) are not at all knowledgeable about the differences between a "medical food" and a "dietary supplement." 

Taking Control of their Symptoms:

  • Slightly less than one quarter of sufferers (24%) say they regularly take probiotics to control their symptoms.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 of those who have used probiotics (69%) say probiotics have helped change their life for the better.
  • Only about a third of sufferers (35%) feel they are at least somewhat knowledgeable about the benefits of a low-FODMAP diet.

Who's Buying Probiotics?:

  • Nearly half of IBS, UC, ileal pouch/ sufferers (48%) have looked for reviews of particular probiotic brands before heading to the store shelves.
  • Only 12% of IBS, UC, ileal pouch/ sufferers say when choosing a probiotic they look for the certain strain that will help best with their condition.
  • Only 21% say that their insurance plan pays for part of the cost of their probiotic prescriptions.

About VSL#3:

VSL#3® is a high-potency probiotic medical food that is clinically proven in the dietary management of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and an ileal pouch and must be used under medical supervision. A different type of probiotic, VSL#3 is a proprietary formulation of a mix of eight strains of live lactic acid bacteria -- it is one of the few probiotics with this many strains making it at least 10 times more potent than the average probiotic. 

VSL#3 is kept refrigerated behind the counter at pharmacies nationwide (refrigeration preserves the live bacteria and helps maintain high potency). For more information visit us on facebook or order online at Consumers can save $5 on their next order with the discount code "DOCTOR" at checkout. For more information visit or call 1-866-GET VSL3 (438-8753).

1Harris 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 adults ages 18+ who have been diagnosed with a digestive or gastrointestinal condition, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis, ileal pouch/  ("sufferers"). Data are weighted where necessary by age within gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, income, and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.

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