Answer:

Proper refrigeration is critical for many probiotics, both before and after they are purchased. In fact, in 2009 the majority (85%) of probiotics selected for testing by ConsumerLab.com did not contain their listed amounts of organisms and, as ConsumerLab.com later learned, improper shipping and warehousing by distributors and retailers appears to have been at least partly to blame. Fortunately, ConsumerLab.com has found better results in more recent Reviews, probably due to improvements in refrigeration procedures by several companies. 

Many probiotic bacteria are naturally sensitive to heat and moisture. Heat can kill organisms and moisture can activate them within pills, only to die due to lack of nutrients and a proper environment. These products should ideally be refrigerated and kept out of humidity. However, probiotics with freeze-dried organisms (which includes most sold as supplements in tablet or capsule form) and in packaging to prevent moisture, such as blister packs, generally do not need refrigeration or to be kept out of humidity but should still not be exposed to heat above room temperature. They also have longer shelf-lives than products containing live cultures, such as yogurts and drinks (which must be refrigerated). Probiotic yeast and some of the spore-forming bacteria, such as Bacillus coagulans, generally do not require refrigeration.

If you are purchasing a probiotic with a label that suggests or requires it be refrigerated, be sure your retailer has kept it refrigerated. If you order the product by mail, such as from an online retailer, be sure it is shipped overnight or with refrigerated shipping to minimize exposure to extreme heat, especially during warm weather - and arrange for the package to be delivered at a time you are home. (Freeze-dried probiotics are not damaged by extremely cold temperatures, like the temperature in airplane cargo holds, which can reach freezing or below - so they can be safely shipped by air.)

Once you get the product, be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. If in doubt, refrigerate. Once you remove a probiotic from its blister pack or container, use it right away - don't put it in a weekly pill holder.

For more information about probiotics and ConsumerLab.com's latest tests and comparisons, see the Product Review of Probiotic Supplements.

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3 Comments

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Carol15557
September 21, 2017

I just found out the soil-based, spore-forming bacteria are shelf-stable and do not require refrigeration. Three examples are Bacillus Coagulans, Bacillus Subtilis and Bacillus Clausii. These probiotics not only survive high temps in the body, but they survive stomach acid and antibiotics! B. Clausii fights C.Diff and STAPH and helps prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics.

ConsumerLab.com
September 25, 2017

Hi Carol -Yes, as noted in our Probiotics Review ( https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/probiotics/#storage), spore-forming bacteria, such as these and probiotic yeast, don't require refrigeration.

Carol15376
August 10, 2017

Why take heat-sensitive probiotics in the first place, if they die immediately once taken into our bodies, which are in fact hot, at about 98.6 degrees fahrenheit. Am I missing something?

ConsumerLab.com
August 10, 2017

Your question is a good one, Carol. In general, to maintain good gut flora, what you eat every day is more important than the probiotic you take. Foods with fiber -- including inulin -- are best. However, probiotics may still be useful in certain situations, such as after antibiotic therapy. Our Probiotic Review includes extensive information about prebiotics and food sources of inulin, as well as what probiotics can and can't do.

Carol15378
August 10, 2017

You hit on something! From what I have been reading (Dr Gundry for example), I have come to realize that diet is the more important factor in our microbiome, and if I may put it this way, the bacteria seem to follow the diet. In other words, even the worst eater will have a tiny amount of the good bacteria; if he/she shifts away from processed convenient foods laden with starch and sugar and moves toward consuming whole foods, in particular more vegetables with soluble fiber, the good bacteria will begin thrive, multiply, and literally crowd out the bad bacteria, yeast etc which will be starved. The "bad bugs" eat junk, sugar and simple carbs, whereas the "good bugs" eat vegetables rich in inulin/ soluble fiber. It's great to know that we have that degree of control to tip the balance in our favor.

ConsumerLab.com
August 10, 2017

Yes, that's where the science seems to be heading, Carol. This has also been an issue regarding the increase in TMAO (associated with atherosclerosis) with intake of foods containing choline. TMAO rises more when choline foods are eaten by people who have been eating foods rich in choline (egg yolk, liver, etc.) than in people eating a more vegetarian/vegan diet, as mentioned here https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/do-lecithin-or-phosphatidylcholine-increase-the-risk-of-heart-attack/phosphatidylcholine_lecithin/.

Haresh17251
October 19, 2018

The bacteria already in the body survive and flourish in the 98.6 degree environment so the probiotics microbes should. I suppose they need food and moisture in that temperature range.

John11138
August 7, 2016

Jarro-Dophilus EPS by Jarrow Formulas is enteric coated and is advertised as not requiring refrigeration but notes that refrigeration will extend shelf life. It is sold in boxes of 120 capsules, packaged in blister packs of 15 capsules each. I keep the box in the refrigerator except for the blister pack that I am using at the time.

HR11304
September 28, 2016

good idea !

r11307
September 28, 2016

I have the exact same experience with this product and the reason I know it's still good is it still protects me from a milk allergy... It's the only one I've found to do so...

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