We all know that probiotics are good gut bacteria that need to be alive and potent for them to be effective in the way they’re supposed to be in your tummy. So, what’s the probiotics’ shelf life, and can you still use an expired product?
- Most probiotic products have an expiry date of 1-2 years after manufacturing.
- However, the live microorganisms can actually die long before the expiry date if the product isn’t stored correctly or using the manufacturer’s recommendation.
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Surprisingly, researchers in a 2020 study discovered that many probiotics can still live several years after the expiry date if the product is stored in ideal conditions.
Although it seems that probiotics can live longer than the manufacturers’ set expiration, it leads to several questions:
Are expired probiotics still viable and safe to take?
How can you ensure that probiotics remain viable?
Let’s discuss the answers to these questions below.
Probiotics Shelf Life: Do They Expire?
Manufacturers of any product, especially food, must set an expiry date or “best before” date. It’s the date when the product might no longer be safe or as effective as it was intended to be.
Often, in the case of medications or supplements, manufacturers underestimate the number of active ingredients to ensure that their products still contain the advertised minimum quantity at expiry.
So, probiotic products also have an expiry date.
But do probiotics really expire? Let’s discuss more this below.
What’s The Standard Shelf Life For Probiotics (Stored At Ambient Conditions)
It varies among different brands and products but is usually around 1-2 years from manufacturing.
Let’s examine the shelf life of these different probiotic products below.
Refrigerated Probiotics Shelf Life
Although the refrigerated probiotics’ shelf life remains the same as the one on the label or packaging, some studies suggest that refrigeration can extend past the date the manufacturer set.
However, the actual expiration and viability of the live microorganisms can vary depending on several factors, including the probiotic strain and CFU (colony-forming units) that the product originally had.
Seed Probiotic Shelf Life
The probiotics in Seed DS-01 Daily Synbiotic can be stable for 18 months when stored in ambient temperature (up to 79° F).
Although it doesn’t require refrigeration, the manufacturer recommends this type of storage if
storing the product if your home is consistently warmer for extended periods. If you choose this option, make sure to keep the product in an oxygen-tight container to avoid moisture.
Probiotic Yogurt Shelf Life
The probiotic yogurt shelf life is usually lower (just around one year) than capsule-based probiotics, but the actual range varies among brands.
Probiotic Pills Shelf Life
Again, it varies according to the brand, but the probiotic pills’ shelf life is usually around 1-2 years.
Probiotic Powder Shelf Life
Like the other dry products mentioned above, the probiotic powder shelf life is often set within 1-2 years as long as it’s kept in the original packaging and stored as recommended by the manufacturer.
So, the next question is now whether it’s still safe to use probiotics past their shelf life on the label, and whether they’re still effective at all.
Expired Probiotics: Are They Still Safe To Use?
While some studies show that several expired products continue to have active probiotics even years after the expiry date, their safety and potency are no longer guaranteed.
You can’t also sue the manufacturer if the product is ineffective or made you sick past the expiry date on the label.
For your safety, don’t try to take expired probiotics, whether or not they were stored properly.
Do Dates Really Matter?
A study of 33 expired probiotic products showed interesting results. Amazingly, some products still have a high % viability despite having expired for many years.
However, the viability is expected to decrease more with each passing time.
The researchers also checked other factors that might have affected their viability, including the type of capsule material, packaging, and storage conditions.
They discovered that certain packaging and storage conditions can affect a probiotic product’s viability, but the type of capsule material doesn’t seem to matter.
But even if they can still be potent, the date on the label still matters. The researchers concluded that although the probiotics might still work, it’s unsafe to take these expired products due to the lack of safety studies.
Issues With Expired Probiotics
The main issue with expired probiotics is that it’s possible that the microorganisms are no longer living. So, taking that product becomes useless.
However, considering that these microorganisms are so small that a capsule can contain millions or billions of them, it’s really impossible to tell whether they’re still alive or not. So, it might be best to simply trust the manufacturer and discard these expired products.
Another issue is that it’s entirely possible for a product to expire well before the manufacturing date.
But since you also don’t have any way of telling if that’s the case, the best thing to do are:
- Buy from a trusted manufacturer
- Store the products based on the manufacturer’s recommendations
Can Expired Probiotics Make You Sick?
Although they’re bacteria, probiotics are the “good guys” and aren’t likely to make you sick even if the product is past the expiry date.
However, dead probiotics are also of no use to you. They’re practically useless.
So, be sure to check the product you’re buying or had bought to see if it’s close to the expiry date.
You might consider returning it to the manufacturer or seller and getting a new item if it’s just a month or two away from that crucial date.
Factors That Make Probiotics Expire Faster
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are only effective if they reach your tummy within the potency and viability as intended.
So, it’s important to ensure that these microorganisms stay alive and viable until, at least, the expiry date on the packaging.
The following are factors that make probiotics expire faster and should be avoided as much as possible:
- Exposure to moisture
Let’s dive into each factor below.
Heat & Variable Temperature
Because they’re live microorganisms, probiotics can die and are no longer viable if they’re exposed to heat.
That’s the reason why some manufacturers recommend refrigeration if your home is warm or hot (over 79° F) for prolonged periods.
However, constant exposure to warm temperatures isn’t the only possible problem.
Probiotics are sensitive organisms that survive best at a constant temperature. Abrupt changes in temperature, especially happening regularly, can also affect their chances of survival.
Exposure to Moisture
The reason why probiotic pills, capsules, and powder have a longer shelf life than probiotic yogurt is that they’re in the inactivated form of these products.
Once they’re wet or exposed to moisture, these probiotics get activated. However, they will fail to thrive if they aren’t in your digestive system. That’s why they can expire early and become inactive even if they haven’t reached the date on the packaging yet.
Probiotics Shelf Life: Tips To Make Them Work Longer
This is fairly easy to understand because you only have to avoid the reasons discussed above that can make your probiotics expire faster.
So, make sure to avoid regular exposure to heat, variable temperatures, and moisture.
Are Refrigerated Probiotics Better Than Shelf-Stored Products?
Literature and some study results have indicated that probiotic refrigeration leads to higher viability compared to storage in ambient conditions.
In short, refrigerated probiotics can be better than shelf-stored versions of the same product.
However, because refrigeration can also lead to moisture, be sure to store the products in an airtight, oxygen-tight container to avoid this problem.
Do You Need To Refrigerate Your Probiotics?
No. Not all products need to be refrigerated. Check the manufacturer’s instructions, and be sure to refrigerate all probiotics that need to be put in the fridge.
In general, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics must be refrigerated for best results. But even if they’re in the fridge, they can quickly lose their potency by as much as 10-15% per month.
Still, because they can lose their potency much faster than that rate of 10-15% per month at room temperature, it’s really best to store them in the fridge.
If you’re taking Saccharomyces boulardii and Bacillus probiotics, you’re in luck because they’re shelf-stable and don’t require refrigeration. However, storage in the fridge can extend its shelf life.
What’s The Best Way To Store Probiotics?
Glass lets less air through than plastic. So, it might make sense to use this material to store probiotics.
However, the study mentioned above didn’t find a significant difference between the viability of products stored in glass or plastic.
The researchers theorized that although plastic can let more air and moisture in than glass, it might provide more protection against lights (which can also lead to faster expiry).
One solution to this is to use amber-colored bottles for storage if you aren’t refrigerating your probiotics.
How To Store Probiotics For Maximum Potency
- Always keep probiotics away from heat and moisture (except liquid types like probiotic yogurt).
- Check the manufacturer’s label for the storage instructions, and make sure to refrigerate all products that need to be kept in the fridge.
- Keep the probiotics in their original packaging and keep them sealed or closed until you need to take them.
- If possible, avoid transferring your probiotic pills or capsules into weekly pill organizers. While that can help you remember when you need to take them, doing so might easily compromise their potency or effectiveness.
- It’s a good idea to choose a shelf-stable probiotic supplement so you won’t have to worry about keeping them refrigerated. That can be especially useful when you need to travel and can’t have access to the fridge for several hours or days.
- Even if it isn’t written on the label, it’s best to store probiotics containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains in the fridge for maximum shelf life.
- Saccharomyces boulardii probiotics or soil-based probiotics might not need refrigeration but you can extend their shelf life with refrigeration.
Because potency and stability matter, we recommend the following shelf-stable probiotics that don’t need to be refrigerated:
- Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8
- Probiology Gut+
However, you can always help extend their shelf life by putting them in the fridge, but make sure the container is tightly closed to prevent moisture.
Let’s dive into their best features below.
Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8
Designed with targeted nutrition for men, Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8 can give you energy, help calm digestion, and strengthen your immunity. It can also boost your mood and increase your energy and focus without making you feel bloated.
This product is even good at eliminating excess gas and fixing bloat symptoms to make your tummy feel lighter and better.
It’s a blend made for men and offers high-performance gut support with this blend of 10 carefully chosen probiotics:
- Saccharomyces boulardii
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus fermentum
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Bifidobacterium breve
The bottle is in thick, black plastic to help ensure that your probiotics can last longer because they’re protected from light.
Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8 contains 20 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) per serving of three capsules. This can help provide you with enough probiotics for a healthier tummy and an improved immune system.
The brand offers a money-back guarantee for 60 days so you don’t have to worry about losing your money if you aren’t satisfied with their product.
To ensure that the probiotics work, Bauer Nutrition gives their probiotics some “packed lunch” of prebiotics (fibers that probiotics get nourishment from), including dietary fiber inulin from chicory and fructooligosaccharides.
Plus, you also get the added benefits of having these ingredients in your probiotics:
- 10 mcg of vitamin D
- 20 mg of amylase
- 25 mg of lipase
- 10 mg of protease
Learn more about about Biotics 8 here
If you prefer a more potent probiotic that can be used by all genders, then you can pick Probiology Gut+. It has plenty of features so you can get the best value for your money.
These shelf-stable probiotics are stored in amber bottles and don’t need to be refrigerated.
But because this product contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, you can put it in the fridge to increase shelf life.
Probiology Gut+ is a potent product that delivers as much as 40 billion CFUs of the following clinically backed bacterial strains safely and without stomach issues (per serving of 2 capsules):
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus paracasei
The brand claims that these bacterial strains weren’t just picked at random but chosen by the Probiology team who got help from top scientists and nutritionists to ensure that they pick the right ones for the best results.
Probiology Gut+ eliminates bloat, improves digestion, strengthens immune support, and even supports a good mood.
Plus, even if it’s shelf-stable, this product has zero preservatives. It’s also free from gluten, dairy, and soy.
For your peace of mind, the brand also offers a 100% satisfaction, 60-day money-back guarantee.
To ensure the product’s potency, the brand made sure that the probiotics are protected against your stomach acids using their patented MAKtrek® Bipass Technology made from brown seaweed.
The probiotics have a shield from stomach acids as they travel through your digestive system until they reach your small intestines. It means that you get every bit of good gut bacteria from your probiotic supplement, right where you need them.
Plus, they also come with some “packed lunch” from prebiotic fibers (fructooligosaccharides) to nourish them after the long journey so they can be more effective.
Learn more about about Probiology Gut+ here
Can Probiotics Be Shelf Stable?
Yes. Most probiotics are packaged to ensure that they’re dry and shelf-stable for at least 1-2 years.
One good example is Probiology Gut+ which is shelf-stable, doesn’t require refrigeration, and also contains zero preservatives.
Are Shelf-Stable Probiotics Better?
Yes. Choosing shelf-stable probiotics ensures that you don’t have to worry about keeping them refrigerated. Plus, they’re often designed to last longer under ambient conditions.
How Do You Know If Probiotics Are Still Alive (In Expired Drinks)?
You can’t tell just by looking at a product whether the probiotics are still alive and viable.
We don’t recommend taking expired probiotic drinks, but if you want to test the presence of these good gut bacteria in your drink (expired or not), Probiology recommends trying out the following experiment:
- Break open one capsule.
- Pour the contents into a clean bowl.
- Add about 1⁄4 cup of whole milk to the bowl.
- Wait 24 hours.
If the milk is curdled, then it still contains live, active strains of good gut bacteria.
However, this test doesn’t show the actual viability, potency, and safety of the product. So, if the label shows that the probiotic is expired, don’t take it unless you have your doctor’s go signal.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.
The shelf life of probiotics is an important consideration for manufacturers and consumers alike. Most probiotic products have an expiry date of 1-2 years; however, there is some variability among different types of probiotics. It is important to store probiotics properly to ensure their viability and efficacy.