Do Probiotics Need To Be Refrigerated?
Probiotics are a type of gram-positive friendly bacteria that once ingested may provide benefits to a person who has dysbiosis and lacks certain types of bacteria strains.
Probiotic bacteria are living microorganisms which means there are things you can do to help lengthen the shelf life and things that you should avoid to shorten the shelf life.
Here's where it gets complicated though. Certain soil-based spore-forming probiotic strains are more shelf-stable whereas other Lactobacillus bacteria are not and may require refrigeration.
This probiotics refrigeration guide will explain everything.
Why Some Probiotic's Are Shelf Stable
Probiotic capsules contain a mixture of different live bacteria in a powder inside various gelatin, acid-resistant, or vegan capsules. To the naked eye, this bacteria will look identical but on an agar plate under a microscope magnified we would see a different picture.
Bacillus probiotic bacteria like B. Coagulans & B. Subtilis come from soil whereas you can imagine the natural weather conditions present here can vary between seasons. This soil is extremely covered in ice in the winter but experiences high temperatures in the summer.
No matter the season, however, the Bacillus bacteria can survive whilst still thriving. This is why Bacillus Coagulans bacteria is often used in gummy supplements that have to be cooked and in some probiotic teas that have boiling water. It's fairly indestructible making it shelf-stable.
When it comes to lactic acid Lactobacillus bacteria things get a little bit more complicated since no one strain works the same. Some Lactobacilli bacteria can be found in the soil whereas others can be found in the gastrointestinal tract of animals like cows. Lactobacillus Acidophilus for example grows best in cold milk. Many Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus bacteria are sensitive to heat.
Probiotic Refrigeration Advice
It's always best to first check with the probiotic manufacturer on whether or not you need keep the probiotic supplement refrigerated or store it at room temperature.
If the probiotic was shipped in an ice pack then you should refrigerate but if the probiotic bacteria inside of the capsules was freeze fried then you won't require refrigeration.
This 2012 study from medical institutions in Iran looked at the effects of freezing drying some Lactobacillus Paracasei & Lactobacillus Bulgaricus probiotic strains.
Their study found that at temperatures of 23c, the bacteria freeze dried with trehalose metabolizabled sugar, skimmed milk and sodium ascorbate was able to increase the survival rate of the probiotic capsules.
Refrigerating Fermented Foods
Refrigerating fermented foods like Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Tempeh and Miso is completely different from probiotic supplements. These fermented foods don't have as long a shelf life as the supplements and bad bacteria can grow quite rapidly. It's imperative that once opened or after fermenting you refrigerate the food and watch out for growth of bad bacteria. Tell tale signs include visible mould or a strong bad smell.
To Refrigerate Or Not To Refrigerate
Whilst a probiotic supplement will list the Colony Forming Unit count on the bottle this most likely won't be accurate by the time it reaches your doorstep. If the bacteria has not been freeze-dried and contains live cultures then it's likely the shipping process will start to degrade some of the probiotic bacteria. The longer it's kept out of your gut sitting in your pantry, the easier it is for the bacteria to die.
It's best to store the probiotic in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight at the very least and consume it within 2-4 weeks or well before the expiration date. If you aren't planning to use the probiotic supplement every day then keep it refrigerated to help preserve potency. Probiotics don't need to be refrigerated but doing it may help preserve potency depending on how they were manufactured and shipped.