Refrigerated Probiotics: Difference and Benefits

refrigerated probiotics

So you are taking probiotics. But now, you don’t have a clue whether you should be storing them in your fridge.

You might be even wondering if you bought the right probiotics. Is there a difference between the probiotics that are stored either out the fridge or in the fridge?

Do they work in the same way regarding your health, or is the one better than the other?

We are going to find out exactly the answer to these puzzlements.

All You Need To Know About Refrigerated Probiotics

 A Brief Introduction to Probiotics

You might not have known this, but there are billions of micro-organisms living inside your digestive tract; good ones.

They help you to function well. They are called probiotics [1]. There are so many, they outnumber even your human cells.

You can imagine the very important role they have in helping your body digest foods and stave off disease; even create vitamins.

Even though scientists continue to study probiotics, they know already that probiotics do a fantastic and much-needed job in our bodies.


  • Maintain the health of the cell lining of the digestive tract
  • Support immunity
  • Manage inflammation
  • Play a role in diseases affecting digestive health

Shelf-stable probiotics [2]: You have no idea how long they’ve been on the shelf or when they were made.

Even though they are still in live form, the potency drops off along the way.

Refrigerated probiotics: Refrigerated probiotics keep the potency intact without dropping off.

 An important question – are all probiotics the same?

No, they aren’t all same. That’s the short answer. You get different probiotic strains and species with their own unique properties.

That means they affect our health in various ways. It is important to choose a formula that contains the particular strain that supports your specific health needs.

Usually, the three parts are: 

  • A family or genus of bacteria, such as lactobacillus
  • A species within a genus, such as rhamnosus
  • A certain strain within a species, for example, Rosell-11 

Which Probiotic Strain is Right For You?

It’s pretty complicated, but your doctor will know which one is right for you.

Because even though the different strains have a similar characteristic or action, it does not mean the other strains will work in the same way.

Take for instance the Lactobacillus plantarum strain 299v. It is known to reduce IBS symptoms.

Then you get the L. plantarum strain MF1298 [3]. It can actually make IBS symptoms deteriorate.

The best way to make sure you select the correct probiotic strain is to check with your doctor.

1) Shelf-Stable Probiotics

These probiotics might be able to survive in a room-temperature environment much longer than probiotics that aren’t shelf-stable.

Shelf-stable probiotics might even maintain their potency level without even being refrigerated at all.

In fact, they can last about two years. If you travel a lot for instance, then shelf-stable probiotics would be your viable choice.

This doesn’t mean that you should or can store your probiotics in temperatures that are hotter than room temperature.

You don’t want to leave them lying in a hot car on a hot summer’s day for instance. This will no doubt affect their viability.

Here are a couple of ways you can store shelf-stable probiotics to make them last a lot longer: 

  • Don’t remove them from their packaging until you are going to use them. Always ensure that the packaging is as tightly sealed as it can be. Because the two things that kill probiotics’ stability are heat and humidity.
  • Even though shelf-life probiotics don’t need refrigeration, it is still good to store them in a cool, dry place. Your bathroom medicine cupboard might seem like a good place to you, but remember, a bathroom can become humid and this moisture won’t mix well with probiotics! 

2) Refrigerated Probiotics

When it comes to whether your probiotic should be refrigerated, there are many that actually need to be refrigerated.

That’s because certain factors affect the survival of the probiotics as well as their efficiency.

These factors include:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • pH of the environment
  • Type of probiotic strain
  • Packaging
  • Life stage of probiotics
  • Other ingredients in the product

 As we mentioned above, the first place to look to see if your probiotic needs refrigeration is to look on the label or the packaging.

It will definitely suggest refrigeration if needs be.

And how was it stored when you bought it? – Did you find it on a shelf or in the fridge? 

If you bought it coming out of a fridge, then that probably is a good sign it needs refrigeration when it gets home.

For some probiotics, it is vital that they are refrigerated because of what other ingredients are in the product.

For instance, some probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kefir, or yogurt have dairy and other ingredients in them that can spoil faster than the life of probiotics.

It is true that all probiotic supplements will expire at some point, but if you just ignore the storage instructions, they are likely to spoil faster.

Probiotics outside of refrigeration will last longer if they are not exposed to extreme conditions and high temperatures.

In order to provide health benefits, probiotics need to be live microorganisms. That means you need to be aware of the expiry date as well as the storage instructions.

Should probiotics be refrigerated once you bring them home?

Remember that the temperature inside of a delivery truck to the retailer can reach pretty high temperatures – these temperatures can kill your probiotics.

That is why lots of manufacturers ensure that their probiotic formulas are always iced and insulated.

Once they get back to your place, the best advice to give about storing probiotics will depend on the brand.

There are some probiotics that require refrigeration and others do not.

And that’s why you hear of shelf-stable probiotics versus refrigerated ones.

Some bacterial strains are extremely sensitive to moisture and heat

Those that are, unfortunately, the heat kills them instantly. And moisture activates them prematurely before they enter your body. 

That’s why it’s important to know what bacteria strains your supplements contain and whether they need refrigeration or not. See how to up the survival of probiotics here.

Some probiotic supplements were tested in 2009 and it was found that 85% of them, on their packaging, did not disclose the ingredients [4].

If you have bought probiotics recently and you are wondering if they need to be refrigerated, do check the packaging.

That’s usually where you will find the storage instructions. If that fails, check the place where you bought them from.

The pharmacist might help you there. If you bought them from a grocery store in the refrigeration aisle, they probably need refrigeration.

Otherwise, it’s possible that the probiotics you bought were shelf-stable. 

Some probiotic strains are fragile. They require a specific and stable environment, otherwise, they lose their viability.

Others don’t need refrigeration – they are stable enough not to need any encapsulation to remain viable when taken.

With that being said, is it shelf-stable probiotics or refrigerated probiotics?

Which one is best?

Should it be refrigerated probiotics for me or shelf-stable probiotics? Well, the answer to that lies up to you because there isn’t really a better or a worse way.

There are certain strains of probiotic bacteria that do require refrigeration; that are sensitive to freeze-dried processing.

Shelf-stable probiotics contain bacterial strains that are very effective for better digestion, gut, and immune health. It will be entirely up to you. Maybe even consulting with a doctor can give you better guidance on what probiotic types are right for you.


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria – found in the gut. They are known for supporting overall digestive health and for fighting inflammation.

Because they are living microorganisms, it is essential to store them properly to maximize their shelf life and to provide you with the best health benefits.

Not all probiotics are created equal, as we have seen above. That also includes those that require refrigeration.

A good tip to remember with probiotics is to choose one that has scientific research backing, has a target probiotic formulation, as well as the right delivery mechanism. 

Refrigerated probiotics may create a problem for people who take them.

It is not 100% sure that the refrigeration process has remained consistent right through the production, retail, and delivery process.

It could be that some of the beneficial bacteria have died before it reaches your fridge.

If you are someone who travels a lot and forgets to refrigerate your probiotics, it might not be easy to keep the probiotics in a working state.

Despite what a lot of people believe, not all probiotics need refrigeration.

The strain type, as well as the manufacturing process, will determine how probiotics need to be stored.

And you want the best out of your probiotics.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If refrigerated probiotics are better, why bother with the shelf versions?

It’s just a matter of convenience. Often the shelf-life probiotics come in little pearls. Once they are in the fridge, they often stick and bind together. Amy Fitzpatrick Ewing, a dietitian, says that even though refrigerated products are more likely to keep their potency, the non-refrigerated probiotic pills can still remain pretty viable for an extended period of time.

The technology protects the bacteria from light, heat, and oxygen, keeping them intact. Customers should choose high-dose probiotics, and also ones that contain prebiotics. This ensures that there are still viable amounts of bacteria in the probiotics when they are purchased. 

Should one rather eat fermented foods or take probiotic tablets?

 It is always good for people to know that a healthy diet with exercise is always the first step to good health. This kind of lifestyle helps to promote good bacteria in the body. As far as fermented foods and probiotics go, both can be good for you to add to your microbiome, and that’s the most important thing.

How will I know that the probiotics I am taking are working?

For certain conditions like IBS, there are some probiotic strains that potentially provide a reduction in symptoms. This would be a good sign that the probiotics are working. But if you don’t have a specific problem, and you are taking probiotics, you are likely to notice more energy, skin improvement, consistent bowel motions are increased, and a general feeling of well-being overall.