Home Digestive Health Do Probiotics Expire?

Do Probiotics Expire?

Written by Jane Summerfield

Most people, when they buy medicines or supplements, check the expiry dates on the packaging.

They want to see how long they can keep the medicine.

Sometimes they’re checking to see if their meds and supplements haven’t been on the shelves or in the fridges for a long time already and their expiry date is almost due or passed.

And of course, there is always the concern that if they are medicine like probiotics, which is “live” medication [1], if the probiotics had expired and they took, they could have experienced digestive health issues.

That’s what we want to look at today – Do probiotics expire?

Probiotics Shelf Life: When Do Probiotics Expire?

Probiotic pills

There is good news though, that if you have had expired probiotics, and you are worried about it, don’t worry, it is not the end of the world, it won’t hurt you.

The only thing is, is that they probably wouldn’t have given you the health benefits that you were taking them for.

Let’s see what one medical expert, Dr. M. Ruscio, says about the facts of expired probiotics.

He says that:

  • Probiotics that go beyond their expiry date probably don’t have sufficient live bacteria to make a clinical difference.
  • You should store Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus probiotic species in the refrigerator to get the maximum shelf life.
  • Some probiotics might not need refrigeration such as Saccharomyces boulardii probiotics and soil-based probiotics. However, refrigeration might extend their shelf life.
  • Ensure that you choose probiotic products and brands that have been lab test verified [2]. They should contain the colony-forming units (CFUs) [3] as advertised on the label. This will ensure potency.
  • If your probiotic supplement is coming up to the expiration date, or past the expiry date, it will be best to buy a new product. This will ensure you get the best clinical effect. You can determine the potency of your probiotic product by the manufacturer date or the expiration date. But it is not necessary that the package should have both dates.

The aim of probiotic supplements is to get live bacteria past your stomach acid and into your gastrointestinal tract

The best way to ensure you get symptom improvement is to make sure you buy high-quality live-culture probiotics. They should show clearly the expiry date or the manufacture date.

Your probiotic product will begin to degrade and lose its potency as it stays on the shelf day after day.

It can then degrade even faster if it is not stored properly.

When you use probiotic products with the right colony-forming units [4] and a long expiry date still ahead, then you can be assured that your product is still viable for use.

Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have clear regulations on many dietary supplements and probiotics, and so a lot of them don’t have accurate labeling?

Some labeling can even be misleading.

Some products might even contain less than what is advertised on the label.

You have to keep your eyes open.

How to select your probiotics – check these important criteria

  • They should show clearly the list of species [5]
  • The number of colony-forming units (CFUs)
  • The expiry date
  • It should be labeled as free of common allergens
  • It should show Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification
  • The product should be lab-verified for potency by third-party analysis [6]

What are the top or main probiotics?

1) Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus blends

These are lactic-acid-producing bacteria species that are from mostly Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotic species, for example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, or Bifidobacteria infantis.

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics need to be refrigerated for best results.

And even then, they can lose 10-15% of their potency each month.

And at room temperature, the loss of their potency would be even faster.

2) Saccharomyces boulardii

It is a single species of a healthy fungus, Saccharomyces boulardii.

Saccharomyces boulardii probiotics, as well as Bacillus probiotics, are shelf-stable. They don’t require refrigeration.

3) Soil-Based Probiotics

These are a blend of the Bacillus species.

Knowing which types of probiotic strains you are getting in your probiotic supplement is important.

This is because each of the above three types has different storage requirements and different shelf life as well.

So what’s the problem with expired probiotics?

Most probiotics have a shelf life that lasts about a year.

Light and heat can kill the probiotics though, in their supplement form and their food form.

If you have a probiotic supplement that has not been handled properly, by way of bad transportation or bad storage, for example, it is very possible that your probiotics are no longer ‘alive’ and therefore not beneficial to you.

One major problem with probiotics is that the labeling only requires the manufacturers to list the total amount of probiotics in a supplement.

And yet the weight can include both dead and living microorganisms.

That’s according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements [7].

So you might think you’re getting a really good quality, a strong probiotic with 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU).

But you will never know whether your probiotics are dead or alive, and they could have expired or ‘died’ even long before they came into your hands!

Some people recommend you do a probiotic milk test

This involves stirring the contents of a probiotic capsule into a bowl of milk.

If the milk turns into yogurt, it means the bacteria in your probiotic supplement are alive – it was able to ferment the mild.

This is not altogether a reliable test though.

Because the probiotic supplements are so unreliable though, Harvard Health Publishing recommends that people skip getting their good bacteria from probiotic supplements and rather get them through fermented foods, like kefir, yogurt, pickles, and sauerkraut.

Conclusion

If you are taking a high-quality probiotic supplement that has been 3rd party tested for purity, then the good bacteria should last right up to the expiry date, if it was stored correctly.

Usually, probiotic supplements have an expiry date that will last a year from the date of being manufactured.

But it is possible that the supplement’s live organisms can die and become ineffective long before the year is over.

The handling and storage of probiotics play a huge role in how long they last.

As we said at the beginning of the article, it won’t harm you if you took probiotics past the expiry date, but they may not have their full potency intact.

If your probiotics have expired, rather buy new products so you benefit the most.

Letting your probiotics go past their expiry date won’t give you negative side effects – just wasted money.

Also Read: How Do Probiotics And Antibiotics Work In Your Gut?

References

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