I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
I am not a doctor! This post is not intended as medical advice. This post is for information purposes only. Before beginning any new medical routine, always consult with your doctor and/or pharmacist. By continuing, you release me (Elizabeth Bulfer) from any and all liability.
This review is about Visbiome high potency probiotics; specifically, the regular strength capsules.
Why am I reviewing Visbiome high potency probiotics? Well, I’ve been struggling with severe IBS-C (irritable bowel syndrome, constipation prominent) for over 20 years. I’m only 26 years old. My IBS-C problems started very shortly after I started eating solid foods. Apparently, as a toddler, I used to scream and cry in the corner to try to avoid using the restroom. I first got an IBS diagnosis when I was in college, about 2010, but there hadn’t been any other testing done so I actually ignored that diagnosis. Then, just recently, I got diagnosed with IBS-C again. This time, however, I really trusted the doctor and we have done extensive testing for all sorts of other illnesses (and ruled them out). After listening to my history of “bathroom issues,” he concluded that I have definitely been living with severe IBS-C my entire life. You can read a more detailed account in my post: “The Personal Hell That Is My IBS” (warning, it’s quite detailed/graphic and emotional). I’ve only just started to get some semblance of control over my IBS-C thanks to the use of high potency probiotics and an incredible gastroenterologist.
Visbiome actually has several different options to choose from. Regular strength Visbiome comes in capsules, a “lemon cream” flavored powder (also known as “regular flavor”), and an unflavored powder. You can also get an extra strength powder, as long as you get a prescription from your physician first. Since I reviewed the regular strength capsules, that is what the rest of my review will be focused on. (Links to the other types can be found below.)
Directly from Visbiome’s website: “Visbiome™ is a high potency probiotic medical food, containing 8 strains of live bacteria in concentrations of 450 billion bacteria per packet and 112.5 billion per capsule.” These bacteria are labeled quite clearly on the side of the box that the Visbiome comes in, as you can see in the picture.
These 8 bacteria are:
Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus delbrueckii (subspecies bulgaricus*), Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium longum±, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis±
*now Lactobacillus helveticus; ±now Bifidobacterium lactis
This is more than any other, easily available, probiotic on the market (except VSL #3, but more on that later)! It really makes sure to put as much “good” bacteria as possible into your gut.
The formulation isn’t the only unique thing about Visbiome: Visbiome capsules also come in a very unique package! First, the lid is amazing. It’s just a pop top, a lot like the mini M&M tubes that existed when I was in elementary school (please don’t judge me for my age and nostalgia), but that means a lot to someone who frequently has pain in their hands. Frequently, my hands are quite stiff, which can make opening and closing threaded lids very difficult. The pop top on the Visbiome capsule bottle is incredibly easy to open, even when my hands are in a lot of pain. This could be a negative, however, if you have small children… so be sure you store the Visbiome somewhere that small children cannot get their hands on it. The lid isn’t the only unique part of the bottle. The main feature of the bottle is actually that it’s “moisture free!” Instead of needing one of those desiccant packets (the silica beads that say “do not eat”) to keep the pills dry, the desiccant is built into the bottle! This insures that the capsules stay as dry as possible, which means they stay at their maximum potency for much longer.
How Does It Compare?
Visbiome was created by the exact same guy that created VSL #3, using the same formula: the De Simone Formulation. The Visbiome package insert even says: “VISBIOME contains the same strains in the same concentrations and proportions, and is therapeutically equivalent to, the VSL#3® probiotic as produced before January 31, 2016.” Therefore, it seems pretty obvious to compare it to VSL #3 for the purposes of this review!
I’ve actually been taking VSL #3 since my most recent IBS-C diagnosis. Unfortunately, my gut is super sensitive to every single thing that you do to it, so I could only take one every other day. Since both VSL #3 and Visbiome need to be refrigerated to maintain potency, it was very difficult to remember to take the VSL #3 every other day, which means I missed a lot of doses. Then, I did a course of Xifaxin to knock down my gut bacteria overgrowth (we were suspecting I had SIBO). During the Xifaxin, my GI wanted me taking the VSL #3 every single day to help keep the good bacteria in my intestinal tract from dying off completely. After the Xifaxin, I was able to stay on the one capsule a day dose without any ill effects.
I was nervous about moving up to the two capsules a day of the Visbiome, since the one capsule a day dose of VSL #3 had originally made me quite ill, but I at least wanted to give it a try so that I could provide an accurate review of the product. To my surprise, it hasn’t caused any ill effects at all! Yay!
There are a few differences between the VSL #3 and Visbiome, but not many:
Since I had just started a new bottle of the VSL #3 right before the Visbiome arrived, I have gone back to using the VSL #3 since completing the Visbiome trial. However, instead of returning to the one per day dose, I’ve decided to stay at the two per day dose that I was using with the Visbiome. It’s difficult to tell if there is much of a difference between the two, in my body. When I first started using two Visbiome capsules, there was an obvious change in my bowel motility. However, near the end of the trial, my bowels slowed back down a little bit. Now that I’m back on the VSL #3, they are almost back to what they were before. I cannot tell if this is due to the difference in the brands, small changes in my diet, my body getting used to the probiotics, or something else. I do, however, vastly prefer the Visbiome container to the VSL #3 container, so I transferred the remaining VSL #3 into the empty Visbiome container.
Price wise, the VSL #3 and Visbiome are almost identical. I get my VSL #3 from Sam’s Club Pharmacy for about $45-$50 (I can’t find the receipt for the last time I bought it); it is available on the VSL #3 website for $53 dollars for a one-month supply. The Visbiome is $50 for a one-month supply from the Visbiome website.
Initially, before starting the Visbiome, I was worried about the two capsules a day dose. When I had first started on VSL #3, at one capsule a day, my bowels had decided to revolt and swung from constipation all the way to diarrhea. It was miserable. Because I had only been on one capsule a day of VSL #3 for about a month, I was worried that increasing it to two capsules would once again swing me onto the opposite end of the spectrum.
I was also mildly worried about the possibility of bloating. Mild bloating can occur as your body gets used to the change in gut bacteria, but is supposed to resolve itself in 3-4 days. Since I have a lot of bloating due to my IBS-C and other health problems, I was worried that I might get incredibly uncomfortable bloating that would not resolve itself; and that I would then have to reduce the dosage.
Thankfully, these worries turned out to be needless.
My trial of Visbiome was during the month of October. I decided that, since I needed to keep them in the refrigerator and I have a terrible memory, I would be taking both capsules at night before bed.
For the first half of the month, there was a marked change in bowel motility. Initially, I attributed this to potentially consuming some food triggers. However, when this marked change lasted for more than three days, I realized it was due to the Visbiome instead… because, really, my diet wasn’t all that different.
What do I mean when I say change in bowel motility? Well, for me, “normal” is having a bowel movement about once every two to three days. I’m not very regular though, so that’s an average (sometimes it’ll be once every other day, sometimes it’ll only be once a week). With the Visbiome, suddenly I was going every day! You’d think this would be a good thing, but for me, it wasn’t really.
What you have to realize is that the bowels are a muscle, and they are supposed to contract in a rhythmic fashion to move the stool out of the body. So, since it’s a muscle, imagine working any muscle in your body. Say you wanted to get your arms in better shape. You’re used to lifting small five pound weights for ten reps twice a week. Then, because you decided to get in better shape, you suddenly start lifting those same five pound weights for ten reps seven days a week! And no, you didn’t give yourself any sort of warm up period where you slowly increased the amount of exercise you were getting. Your arms would be pretty tired, wouldn’t they? I know mine would be about ready to fall right off!
My intestines also don’t coordinate their contractions very well, because they don’t get much practice (since I don’t use the restroom much). Since they don’t always have useful contractions, they just sit there and spasm until something happens. Intestinal spasms aren’t very comfortable. Eventually, the spasms will be able to coordinate enough to become useful, it can just take quite some time of me sitting on the toilet holding my stomach before that happens.
So you see… suddenly going to the restroom every single day was not just a, “Wow! I’m all better!” experience. It was, honestly, completely exhausting.
Thankfully, things changed in the second half of the month.
My intestines are slow, just plain and simple. If they don’t violently react to something immediately, then it takes a VERY long time for anything to happen. After a few weeks, I noticed that my body was starting to figure out what was supposed to happening! Hallelujah!!! The spasms were lasting for less time before they turned into coordinated pushing, and the urgency was greatly reduced. I also stopped having to go every single day, thank goodness, and was only going about every other day. Now THIS was something I could get used to! Of course, most of my bowel movements were still constipation, but since I was much more regular, the stools weren’t getting as bad. My stomach felt much happier, and my bathroom experiences were a lot more pleasant. I didn’t fear using the restroom anymore, which is something I haven’t experienced in over 20 years! Overall, things were going remarkably well!
Then, in the last week of the trial, things stopped working quite so smoothly. I’m not sure if it was because I was a little more stressed out (personal life stuff) or because I’d gotten rather ill, or a combination of the two, but the regularity stopped. It could have simply been because my body got completely used to the Visbiome, as it has done with other medications in the past, and it just wasn’t working as well as it had before. All I know is that now, I am back to being much more constipated, using the restroom closer to the every-three-days mark, and the spasms are less coordinated. I’m hoping that, maybe, it will improve as I recover from a pesky acute illness I picked up in October.
Overall though, I am EXTREMELY pleased with the Visbiome. I was, honestly, not expecting it to go so well for me. My intestines are fickle, and I was definitely a little worried about having any real results to relay. I’m so excited to report that it actually worked!
Any Other Negatives?
I did have a few negatives that were not related to the actual capsules themselves that I wanted to share briefly.
The shipping method is great for potency: shipped in a foam cooler on ice packs. Unfortunately, this is not that great for the environment as it creates a lot of waste product. I only received one bottle of the Visbiome, and it came in a cooler that was at least twice the size it probably needed to be. The ice packs and cooler are reusable, sure, but if you are reordering frequently you will be up to your eyeballs in coolers and ice packs in no time! (Plus, I already have a bajillion ice packs, so I don’t really need more.) You can order more than one container at a time, however, and they have a decent expiration date… so this method could also be more environmentally friendly.
The other negative is that the Visbiome is not available at my pharmacy. The Visbiome website says you can get it by special order from some pharmacies, so I’ll need to inquire next time I’m there. The VSL #3, however, is already in stock at the pharmacy I use, so it’s very easy for me to pick up with the rest of my medications. Having to order the Visbiome in advance, pay for shipping, and then store any extra packages in the refrigerator (if you decide to order multiple to save on ship time and packaging) is definitely an inconvenience. If I can get it from my pharmacy, however, then this will no longer be a problem. The fact it can be shipped to your house is a plus for illness flare-ups or anyone that has difficulty running errands.
In summary, I absolutely love the regular strength Visbiome high potency probiotic capsules! The company ships the orders extremely quickly (I got the “your order has been placed” and “your order has shipped” emails one day apart), and they use rapid shipping methods to ensure the Visbiome is still cold when you receive it. The bottle is extremely easy to open, even if you have a pain condition in your hands, and it keeps the capsules dry (which is important for potency). The capsules themselves definitely helped to create regularity in my extremely fickle digestive system, and actually helped relieve some of the bathroom anxiety that I’ve had for over 20 years! If you suffer from IBS-C, I would strongly recommend talking to your doctor about Visbiome.
Personally, I am thinking about talking to my doctor about the powders, and seeing if he thinks those might be helpful for me or if I should stick with capsules.
To learn more, visit Visbiome.com.