Do All Probiotics Need Refrigeration To Be Effective?


Published on December 7th, 2020

You may already be aware of the great health benefits that probiotics provide, such as a healthier immune system, their ability to support digestion, and even the positive effects they have on mood. Once you’ve made the decision to try probiotics, naturally you’d then wonder which product to take.

You’d likely also wonder about how you’re supposed to properly store them in order to experience all of their benefits, and more specifically, whether you should choose a brand that needs to be refrigerated or kept on a shelf.

Should Your Probiotics Be Refrigerated?

There’s a simple way to answer this question for any probiotic, and that’s to read the label. If it needs to be stored in the fridge, it will generally be stated by the manufacturer somewhere on the package or bottle.

Another sign of how a probiotic should be stored is how it was stored at the time of purchase. If it was in the fridge section of the store or if it was sent to you with an ice pack, it will likely need to stay in the fridge.

Similarly, if you can store your probiotics on a shelf, it will tell you so on the label. Some manufacturers even provide additional information with regards to how non-refrigerated probiotics should be stored to extend their shelf-life.

Are Probiotics Higher Quality When Refrigerated?

In terms of efficacy, the benefits that probiotics provide are available with both options.

The reason that some probiotics require refrigeration and some don’t is largely down to the different strains that can be freeze-dried, which is a process that makes them able to be successfully stored on a shelf.

Some probiotic bacteria are sensitive to processing methods such as freeze-drying, however. Others come out live and are prepared to populate your gut on the other side.

While it might be assumed that probiotics stored in the fridge don’t include as many calories as their shelf-stored counterparts, it isn’t always the case.

You should always read the labels in order to ensure that any probiotics you consider don’t contain additives.

While probiotics are available from health stores, you can buy shelf-stable probiotics online where you’ll be able to read the content of the labels on the website on which you’re buying from.

Refrigeration may even be a barrier to taking probiotics. If you frequently travel, for example, carrying around probiotics in a heat-sensitive bottle increases the chances that you’ll leave it lying behind somewhere.

Can Probiotics Expire?

Like any living thing, probiotics die at some point. And because they’re required to remain alive in order to work, the expiry date on your probiotics is particularly important.

When you look at a probiotic supplement, you’ll notice that each includes a certain number of organisms per capsule.

One probiotic, for example, may contain five billion colony-forming units per dose. Another might contain 25 billion.

These numbers, however, represent solely those contained in the capsule up to their expiry date. Once that date has passed, the numbers decrease, and the probiotic becomes less effective with time.

While this is the case, no matter the method by which you store your probiotics, failing to closely adhere to the storage instructions, the closer it will happen.

If your probiotic requires refrigeration, for example, but it’s left on a coffee table in the height of summer, the moisture and heat from humidity could kill some of the bacteria- if not all- prior to the expiration date.

If there’s no expiry or best-by date given, don’t buy it. Without an expiry date in mind, you won’t be able to tell whether your probiotics are dead or alive or not. If they’re dead, they won’t be having a positive effect on you anyway.

The Final Word

Refrigerated probiotics aren’t of any higher quality than those that can be stored on a shelf.

The most important thing here is that you choose the right probiotic and store it just how the manufacturer instructs you to.

If you have a refrigerated probiotic, ensuring that it remains cold keeps the bacteria alive. If it’s able to be stored on a shelf, however, it doesn’t require refrigeration, but effective storage techniques are capable of improving the odds that the bacteria will last until the expiry date.

If you’re unsure of whether your probiotics should be refrigerated or not, you can try the cautious approach and store them in your fridge anyway. This helps to protect the probiotics from their two primary enemies: moisture and heat.