Do Probiotics Need to Be Refrigerated? How to Keep Yours Fresh

Posted by Dr. Ian Stern on

Dr. Ian Stern Dr. Ian Stern Dr. Ian Stern

Whether or not probiotics need to be refrigerated depends on the type of strains used in the probiotic. Common elements such as heat, moisture, oxygen, and light impact the survivability of certain probiotic species. From the moment a probiotic is manufactured, most types of bacteria begin the natural dying off process, which needs to be taken into account by the manufacturer.

Accordingly, the product should be created with “overage” and supervised closely during the production, delivery, and storage phases. This way the product can remain viable and the bacteria can survive all the above-mentioned phases as well as the phase of ingestion and traveling through the intestinal tract into the small intestine. Here they begin to colonize and take effect.

Some Probiotics Need to Be Refrigerated

Common strains, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, for example, are very fragile to light, moisture, heat, and oxygen. However, SBO (soil-based organism) probiotics are more naturally resistant.

Bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, casei, bifidobacterium bifidum, longum, saccharomyces boulardii, and others require complex engineering and refrigeration to preserve the bacteria’s viability. Otherwise, the bacteria die before they reach the small intestine, where they perform their work, and you will not derive the full benefit.

Are Refrigerated Probiotics Better Than Non-Refrigerated Ones?

While many bacteria require refrigeration, products that contain freeze-dried organisms and are in packaging to prevent moisture generally do not require refrigeration. One is not necessarily better or worse. The key is choosing a probiotic that has been tested for efficacy and engineered in a way that is effective for the bacteria to remain stable and alive. You should follow the supplement’s instructions.

Why Refrigeration?

During the manufacturing and storage of a probiotic, contact with heat and moisture can be detrimental to some delicate bacteria. However, quality SBO probiotics are naturally resilient and heat stable. They are based on the microorganisms naturally found in a healthy terrestrial (earth-based) microbiome.

Therefore, they have a higher survival rate during the manufacturing, storage, and shipping processes, and they are better able to handle the hot and acidic stomach passage upon ingestion, as researcher Johannes Bader writes in the journal Beneficial Microbes. Therefore, they can remain viable regardless of refrigeration.

At the same time, popular strains such as Lactoacidophilus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, and yeasts like Saccharomyces, Aspergillus, and Torulopsis all require refrigeration during all the phases in order to survive.

Since it’s nearly impossible to control and ensure protection from heat extremes during all the phases, their efficacy is questionable. Also, when traveling it’s best to use probiotics that don’t require refrigeration. Regardless, no probiotic should be exposed to temperatures above 70F.

Natural Enemies of Probiotics

In addition to heat and moisture, which are natural enemies of many probiotic bacteria, there are other important factors to consider. When it comes to probiotics (and all things in life) symbiotic relationships are important. Certain species of bacteria do not cooperate, reducing the viability of some products. For example, L. delbrueckii ssp. Bulgaricus is known to destroy many good bacteria, making some probiotic yogurts less effective. Therefore, it’s important to select probiotic strains that are naturally compatible with other strains.

In order to bypass the need for refrigeration, when in fact certain species require it, various methods have been invented, such as freeze-drying and microencapsulation. However, studies suggest that microencapsulation could not substitute refrigeration of certain strains, such as the Acidophilus, for example.

Freeze-dried probiotics become extremely sensitive to moisture. When stored at room temperature, the water level must be less than 0.25 U, as studies showed. If exposed to moisture or humidity, the product begins to degrade or die out immediately.

Therefore, freeze-dried products are extremely fragile as well, and if exposed to moisture or excessive humidity, freeze-dried probiotics will lose viability over time, or worse yet, they may lose all viability before the consumer even opens the product.

Choosing the right probiotic supplement can be a real game-changer in your life. Probiotics may improve your digestion, increase your immunity to diseases, alleviate depression and anxiety, and improve your overall health and well-being. However, in order to be able to reap these benefits from your supplement, the good bacteria have to survive all the steps of being manufactured, packaged, shipped, and finally ingested, so that the live bacteria can make it where they are needed: the small intestine.

This process is challenging when you’re dealing with delicate micro-organisms, which can die easily from heat, humidity, and being eaten by other bacteria. While ingesting dead bacteria won’t harm you, it also will not benefit you in any way. That’s why it is so important to choose a quality product that has withstood testing and can deliver quality results.

Try my Rebalance Probiotic Formula. It is stored in a climate-controlled storage facility and extra care is taken during the shipping process to insure that each bottle arrives to your doorstep filled with healthy, live bacteria ready to help you feel your best.


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