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Do Probiotics Need to Be Refrigerated?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 12/10/2023

Do probiotics need to be refrigerated? While many probiotic strains require refrigeration, some probiotic products are shelf-stable and maintain potency at room temperature.

Discover how properly storing probiotics can maximize the shelf-life of live bacteria and help maintain the potency and effectiveness of probiotic supplements. 

Probiotic supplements on green background

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are living microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and yeasts, that naturally are present in the human digestive tract.

Probiotics form the intestinal microflora, a microbial ecosystem that closely interacts with various physiological systems and plays a crucial role in overall health and well-being.

Maintaining a diverse intestinal microflora is crucial for optimal gut health, nutrient absorption, immune system function, and metabolic balance. A lack of beneficial gut bacteria, a condition known as dysbiosis, can lead to various health issues.

Dysbiosis has been associated with a wide range of health consequences, including:

  • Digestive issues such as bloating and gas 

  • Allergies and sensitivities

  • Frequent infections

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

  • Depression

  • Acne

  • Weight gain 

Probiotic bacteria are naturally found in fermented foods such as natto, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, and kefir or can be taken in supplemental form. 

Research published in ISRN Nutrition indicates that probiotic foods and supplements provide health benefits by increasing microbial diversity in the gut and promoting a favorable environment for beneficial microbes to grow and proliferate.   

Watch the video below to discover the importance of probiotics for liver health.   

Do probiotics need to be refrigerated?

To maximize the health benefits of your probiotics, it’s crucial to store them correctly. 

“Many probiotic bacteria are sensitive to high temperatures, humidity, and light and require refrigeration to slow down microbial degradation and maximize their longevity,” says Dr. Berg.   

This also explains why certain probiotic supplements are packaged in blister packs that help control temperature changes and moisture content.

A study published in the International Journal of Food Science found that refrigeration can significantly extend the shelf-life of specific strains of probiotics, including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus

The authors found that refrigeration helps achieve bacterial longevity of up to two years, whereas the same strains stored at room temperature deteriorated within three months. 

However, many manufacturers have developed shelf-stable technologies to create probiotics that don’t require refrigeration and have longer shelf lives.

These products typically contain dehydrated or freeze-dried probiotics that remain dormant until they are activated by moisture in the gastrointestinal tract. 

In addition, some high-quality probiotic supplements are formulated with a specific blend of bacterial strains, which creates a self-sustaining microbial ecosystem that is more resilient to changes in temperature range. 

Shelf-stable probiotics are convenient as they don’t need refrigeration but should be kept away from direct sunlight or moisture to maintain maximum potency.

Man reading a product label

How do you know if probiotics should be refrigerated?

Most probiotic supplements provide clear storage instructions, and it’s crucial to carefully read product labels to determine the best way to store your probiotics. 

Some strains are more sensitive to temperature changes than others, and maintaining a consistently cold environment is essential for preserving the viability of these probiotic bacteria.

If a product label doesn’t mention the need for refrigeration, the supplement can typically be stored at room temperature. 

Liquid probiotics have unique health benefits and are becoming increasingly popular. While most liquid probiotics require refrigeration, some high-quality liquid probiotic supplements don’t require refrigeration and have an extended shelf life.

Probiotic pills on digestive tract illustration

How to maximize the shelf life of probiotics

Different strains of probiotics have different sensitivity levels to light, moisture, and humidity, and storing your probiotic supplement correctly is crucial to maximize its shelf life and effectiveness. 

Supplements that require refrigeration are best kept at temperatures between 35°F and 46°F (2°C and 8°C) to maintain the viability and longevity of beneficial bacteria.

While shelf-stable probiotics can be kept at room temperature, they can be impacted by extreme temperature changes, and it’s vital to avoid exposing probiotics to heat or freezing temperatures.  

It’s also recommended to store all probiotic supplements in a dry place and keep them in their original packaging to avoid microbial contamination, which may pose health risks. 

Evidence published in Microbes suggests that changes in color, texture, or smell indicate that a probiotic supplement may have been compromised, and it’s crucial to discard any products that show signs of microbial degradation. 

It's equally important to remember that all probiotic supplements expire, and taking probiotics that have passed the expiration date is likely ineffective and can increase the risk of gastrointestinal side effects and discomfort.  

Woman taking a probiotic supplement

Key takeaways

Do probiotics need to be refrigerated? While some strains of probiotics require refrigeration, others can be safely kept at room temperature. 

To maximize your probiotic supplement's effectiveness and shelf life, it's vital to follow the storage requirements on the product label.

It’s equally important to check the expiry date and discard probiotics that show signs of contamination or degradation or have passed the expiration date. 

Additional Probiotics Resources


1. Do probiotics need to be refrigerated?

Whether or not you should refrigerate your probiotic supplement depends on the specific probiotic strain in the product.

Most probiotics that require refrigeration will have clear storage instructions on the product label. If you are unsure how best to store your probiotics, it’s recommended to contact the manufacturer directly. 

2. Which probiotics do not need to be refrigerated?

Certain strains of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Bacillus are less sensitive to heat and moisture and can be stored at room temperature. 

However, it’s crucial to check the product labels and carefully follow the storage instructions of the probiotic supplement you plan to use. 

3. How do I know if probiotics should be refrigerated?

Most probiotic supplements that require refrigeration will provide specific storage recommendations on the product label. 

Even if a probiotic is shelf-stable and doesn't require refrigeration, it’s generally recommended to store it in a cool, dry place away from heat or freezing temperatures to maintain its potency.

4. How do you know if probiotics are alive?

It can be challenging to determine if probiotics are alive. That’s why it’s crucial to purchase high-quality probiotic supplements from reputable sources with at least 60 billion colony-forming units (CFUs), a measure of how many viable bacteria each serving contains. 

Changes to the color, texture, or taste of a probiotic supplement can indicate bacterial degradation or contamination, and it’s crucial to discard any probiotics that show signs of spoilage. 

5. What is the difference between refrigerated probiotics and shelf probiotics?

Refrigerated probiotics and shelf-stable probiotics differ in their storage requirements.

Some probiotics need to be stored in a cool environment to maintain the viability of live cultures, while shelf-stable products can be kept at room temperature without compromising their potency.

6. How do you store probiotics after opening?

After opening, store probiotics according to the manufacturer's instructions. Some probiotics must be refrigerated, while others can be safely stored at room temperature.

However, it’s generally recommended to keep all probiotics in their original packaging and store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to maintain their potency and effectiveness.

7. Are refrigerated probiotics better?

Whether refrigerated or shelf-stable probiotics are better depends on the specific strains, formulation, and your specific health needs. 

Some probiotic supplements contain sensitive bacterial strains that require refrigeration, while others remain potent at room temperature. 

8. How long before refrigerated probiotics go bad?

The shelf life of refrigerated probiotics can vary from a few weeks to several months. It’s crucial to check the product’s expiration date and avoid taking expired probiotics, which may lead to gastrointestinal issues.   

9. Are probiotics still safe to take if left out?

If a probiotic supplement that requires refrigeration has been left unrefrigerated for an extended period, it may be susceptible to contamination by potentially harmful microbes and should be discarded.   

10. What happens if probiotics get warm?

Exposing probiotics to warm temperatures, especially if they are supposed to be refrigerated, can reduce the viability and effectiveness of the live microorganisms and increase the risk of microbial contamination.

11. Can you freeze probiotics?

Probiotics are live organisms sensitive to extreme temperatures, and freezing probiotics isn’t recommended as this can decrease the number of viable bacteria and reduce the supplement's effectiveness.

12. What is the optimum temperature for probiotics?

Refrigerated probiotics should be kept in their original packaging and stored in the refrigerator at temperatures between 35°F and 46°F (2°C and 8°C).


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4045285/ 

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9691296/ 

  3. https://academic.oup.com/femsmicrobes/article/1/1/xtaa007/5957529 

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