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I saw the advertisement for a live bacteria, VSL#3, in the newspaper. What is this bacteria, and will it help my IBS?

Dr. Farhadi: VSL#3 is a probiotic. Probiotics are beneficial live bacteria that survive the digestion process and therefore are able to populate in the gastrointestinal tract. There are more than a million species of bacteria in our digestive tract, particularly in the large bowel. This population could be affected by diet and various disease states. It is widely believed that a proper balance of these bacteria is interconnected not only to the health of the digestive tract, but also to our sense of well-being. Several studies have shown that there are some abnormalities in the balance of the bacterial population living inside the gastrointestinal tract in some disorders including IBS. In addition, some reports claim that ingestion of live bacteria (probiotics) can restore this imbalance. There are a growing number of commercially available probiotics in the market. However, only a few of them have been standardized and tested in clinical trials. VSL#3 is one of the probiotics that contains almost a half-trillion live lactic acid bacteria that survive the journey through the GI tract and colonize in the colon. The results of clinical trials on VSL#3 have provided promising effects in patients with IBS; in particular, VSL#3 reduced bloating and flatulence among these patients. As mentioned above, probiotics are live bacteria, so most of them need to be kept in the refrigerator. VSL#3 used to be available only as a powder, but recently it is being offered in pill form.
2008-01-05 12:15:40

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