Do Probiotics Need to Be Refrigerated?
Like many answers it really depends. If you're wondering which probiotics need to be refrigerated you need to look on the ingredients panel. In general, after opening a shelf-stable or room-temperature stable probiotic, you should refrigerate it. Probiotics that do not need refrigeration are Saccharomyces boulardii, Bacillus coagulans, and/or Bacillus subtilis.
For those reasons, it is important to learn how to choose the right probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial living organisms that can be consumed in food or in the form of a supplement. Because they are living organisms, they can perish if they aren’t protected.
Refrigeration will improve the viability of all probiotics as it slows down metabolic processes and lowers the speed of degradation.
Probiotics that lack the any of the protective mechanisms below should always be refrigerated, even prior to opening. Let’s go over some of the production techniques that can help ensure probiotic stability until it’s ready to be consumed.
1. Spray-dried Versus Freeze-dried Probiotics
Probiotics are often produced using spray-drying or freeze-drying which removes moisture and preserves the probiotic. Freeze-drying, or lyophilization, is a process in which probiotics are frozen and moisture is removed under vacuum. This preservation process preserves the original probiotic better compared to spray drying which exposes probiotics to greater temperature and moisture extremes. 1
2. Micro encapsulation
Micro-encapsulation is a process in which probiotics are surrounded by various materials which form a protective shell and/or scaffolding for the probiotics to grow. This process improves the viability of freeze-dried probiotics stored at room temperature.2
3. Co-encapsulated Probiotics
Co-encapsulation is the act of packaging probiotics that help support their survival and viability. Scientists have found that co-encapsulating probiotics with fiber, cryoprotectants like trehalose, and/or milk medium are beneficial and increases the survival of probiotics.3
Based on our research, probiotics should be produced with either lyophilization, microencapsulation, and co-encapsulation processes to maximize shelf life.
When Should Probiotics Be Refrigerated?
Probiotic supplements should be refrigerated after opening to maximize potency. This is because humidity in the air can start to reactivate probiotics prematurely, undoing the preservation processes used during manufacturing.
A probiotic’s packaging and capsules may help keep moisture sealed out but they are not completely airtight. Refrigeration slows down metabolic and degradation processes which helps preserve the probiotic until they are ready to grow inside the gut.
Probiotics that Never Need Refrigeration
That said, certain probiotics do not need refrigeration because there are certain species of probiotics that are more resilient than others such as:
- Saccharomyces boulardii - a probiotic yeast that if freeze-dried can survive at room temperatures.
- Bacillus coagulans - a probiotic that forms hardy spores. These spores can lay dormant in extreme temperatures and conditions until they are exposed to more suitable growing environments
- Bacillus subtilis - another spore-forming probiotic that is able to resist extreme conditions.
Therefore, when probiotics are formulated, these shelf-stable strains should be included along with the aforementioned probiotic manufacturing techniques.
Still have questions on probiotics? Read our next article: Top 7 Questions about Probiotics