Refrigerating Probiotics: The Cold Truth
Probiotics, supplements that replenish the good bacteria found in your digestive tract, have gained in popularity and main stream use in the last decade or more. As science has discovered how important the Microbiome of your gut is to digestive health, immune function, skin health and more, probiotics found not only foods like yogurt and kefir but in a wide variety of over the counter supplements have gained in popularity with the general public. They come in many forms and formulas; some are refrigerated, some probiotics come at room temperature and they can come in tablets, capsules, chewable and powder form.
One frequently asked question is since probiotics are live bacteria strains, should probiotics be refrigerated? The answer to that is yes, but……..
Once you digest a probiotic supplement those live bacteria need to be able to live in your GI tract at approximately 98.6 degrees. They also need to be stable enough to withstand shipping from the manufacturer. So, unlike their food based counterparts which can “spoil” in a short period of time, a quality probiotic supplement will be stable at room temperature. They may lose a small percentage of viability over several months at room temperature but they won’t spoil like the dairy products that contain them. Most quality companies will have compensated for that possible loss of viable bacteria by having a bit more than the label claims upon manufacturing so even when they hit their expiration date, they will still be near the amount of live bacteria that the label claims. The bacteria will begin to die off at temperatures over 120 degrees so if you live in a warm climate and have them shipped to you they will most likely come with a freezer pack. Even if that freezer pack is thawed when you get it, it will have kept the supplement cool for long enough for them to still be viable when you receive them. If however, your package sat in a hot warehouse, truck or out in the sun for an extended period it may have experienced some loss of the live bacteria. If you take them daily and they don’t sit around in an overly warm environment you can take them with you when you travel without losing their strength but it is recommended to only take with you what you will need while you are gone and leave the rest at home just in case.
The best policy to follow regarding probiotics is to make sure you are getting them from a reputable company that will have in them what they say is in them and from a reputable distributor (whether online or at a local store) that will have handled and stored them properly. Even though they can be stable at room temperature it is the best practice to keep them refrigerated to avoid any loss of potency.