Why Are Probiotics Refrigerated? (it might surprise you)

Why are probiotics refrigerated

If you’ve ever looked at the back of a probiotic supplement bottle, you may have noticed that they are often refrigerated. But why is this the case? And what are the benefits of using probiotics that are kept cold?

So, you’ve heard that probiotics are good for your tummy and have lots of other benefits. 

But did you know that they’re live microorganisms that need to be alive for them to actually work their wonders in your body?

Probiotics hate heat because too much of it can kill them. That’s the reason why probiotics are better off in the fridge than being kept in a room or cupboard with high temperatures.

The good news, my friend, is that not all probiotics need to be refrigerated – and many are shelf-stable at room temperature.

So, are shelf-stable probiotics better than those that require refrigeration? What happens if you forget to refrigerate your probiotics, and can you still drink probiotics kept in a hot place?

Let me discuss the answers to all these questions below.

Do Probiotics Need Refrigeration? (probiotic temperature sensitivity)

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as you think. It’s actually both a “yes” and “no” – and sometimes it’s even a “maybe.”

First, it’s a “yes” probiotics need to be refrigerated because probiotics are live microorganisms that are sensitive to heat. They could easily die when exposed to heat. When that happens, the probiotic supplement you continue to take will be useless because the gut bacteria inside them are already dead.


Next, it’s a “no” for some probiotics because the moisture that could form inside their containers when put in the fridge could also affect them. So, if you’re planning on putting your probiotics inside the fridge, be sure to place them inside air-tight and moisture-free containers.

Lastly, it’s a “maybe” because these rules don’t apply to all probiotics.

Let’s find answers to the burning questions you might have in your mind right now about probiotics and refrigeration.

Do All Probiotic Strains Need Refrigeration?

Nope! Not all strains need to be refrigerated, but you should check the manufacturer’s instructions or label on your bottle. 

Be sure to refrigerate the probiotics that must be put in the fridge. They could die if kept in warm or hot temperatures for a long time in storage.

Strain-Specific Effects & Requirements (not all require refrigeration)

It could still depend on several factors, including the type of supplement you’re taking, but in general, the following probiotics have to be refrigerated for best results:

  • Bifidobacterium
  • Lactobacillus 

Surprisingly, your probiotics could quickly lose their potency by as high as 10-15% per month, even if you put them in the fridge.

Still, you’d want to prolong their life and potency, so it’s best to store them in the fridge. Note that some studies discover that probiotics might be at their optimal potency up to 3 months after manufacturing.

The good news is that certain strains don’t require refrigeration and can be shelf-stable, as long as they’re kept at optimal conditions (and kept in their original containers):

  • Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Bacillus

The Probiotic Cold Chain & Its Importance

Alright, I know this could break your heart but there’s actually a possibility that your probiotics are already dead or at low potency even before they reach your house!

That especially holds true for products with sensitive formulations or are in forms (such as liquid) wherein the probiotics are already activated.

It’s essential for the probiotics to be cultured, manufactured, stored, and shipped to your home or the store at cool temperatures.

This probiotic cold chain helps ensure that your probiotics are still potent and contain the number CFUs (colony-forming units) listed on the bottle.

Since you can’t really tell whether they were handled correctly and stored in cool temperatures, it’s best to pick shelf-stable products that don’t require refrigeration at all. Also, stick to the products from trusted manufacturers.

And once the products arrive at your home, keep them in your fridge if needed so won’t subject those probiotics to more stress.

Ideal Probiotic Storage Temperature

As explained above, this is dependent on the strain and the product, but one study determined that 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) is the optimal temperature for the probiotics in yogurt:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5
  • Bifidobacterium lactis Bb- 12
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001
  • Lactobacillus paracasei Lpc-37
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus

What’s The Difference Between Refrigeration & Non-Refrigerated Probiotics?

The best way of determining whether your probiotics need to be refrigerated is to check the label and read the product label.

If unsure, here’s the general rule:

  • Liquid probiotics, such as yogurts, are more likely to need refrigeration
  • Probiotic tablets and capsules are usually shelf-stable, but some might require refrigeration or would last longer if you put them in the fridge

What Happens If Probiotics Are Not Refrigerated? (or get hot)

A 2020 study showed that probiotics kept at room temperature might experience a significant decline in potency than those kept at -20 and 4 degrees Celsius (-4 and 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

Also, other studies have shown that probiotics exposed to heat might no longer be effective even if they aren’t expired yet.

So, are these probiotics still safe to take?

The answer is “yes.” They’re likely still safe to take but the question would not be whether they can still be effective. Sadly, there is no way of telling whether the probiotics are still alive by just looking at your supplement. The probiotics are so tiny and aren’t likely to show indications of whether they’re still alive or already dead.

In short, they can be safe but might no longer be effective.

Are Refrigerated Probiotics Better & Why?

Not necessarily. One probiotic form isn’t necessarily better than others. The key here is to store your probiotics the way they’re meant to be stored, as you can see on the product’s label.

Still, because several studies show that refrigeration can prolong probiotic life while storage at room temperature could make them less effective, putting them in the fridge might help a lot.

Just always ensure you keep your probiotics in their original container for optimal storage.

Recommendations: Shelf-Stable Probiotics That Don’t Require Refrigeration

I’ve got some good news for you. There are actually shelf-stable probiotics that don’t require refrigeration even if they’re made without preservatives.

These two are my best choices:

Let me explain the reasons why I recommend them to you.

1. Probiology Gut+

Probiology supplement fact

This shelf-stable probiotic promises to deliver 40 billion CFUs containing the following gut bacteria strains:

  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus paracasei

Packed in amber bottles that keep the sunlight out, they could be stable for months.

Proper handling and storage are important, but getting the probiotics delivered to your small intestines is also a crucial thing.

Probiology Gut+ solves that problem by wrapping its probiotics in patented MAKtrek Bipass Technology using brown seaweed. This protects the live bacteria from your stomach acids and lets them survive in the expected CFUs as written on the label.

Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8

Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8

Another shelf-stable probiotic, Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8 is stored in a thick, black plastic bottle to protect them from light and heat.

This blend, designed for men, contains the following strains:

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Saccharomyces boulardii

Each serving contains 20 billion CFUs.


At What Temperature Do Probiotics Die?

The number isn’t exact and could vary among different strains, but scientists believe probiotics die at around 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius).

Yeah, high temperatures can kill probiotics, and exposure to temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit will destroy live cultures. However, some probiotic supplements are specially designed to be heat resistant, so that they can withstand both refrigeration and freezing without losing their potency.

When buying a probiotic supplement, always check the label to see if the product is heat resistant.

Where To Buy Refrigerated Probiotics?

The best places to buy refrigerated probiotics are your local supermarket, grocery store, or pharmacy. That’s because they store the probiotics in the fridge, and the products are likely delivered directly to them from the manufacturer.

The cold chain isn’t likely broken in these direct shipments compared to buying refrigerated probiotics online.

When buying online, you can’t be 100% sure that the courier knows how to handle refrigerated probiotics, and the products could easily be exposed to heat while traveling from the shop to your home.

Do Probiotics Go Bad In The Heat?

Yes. As we explained above, there are certain strains that are more sensitive to heat. So, they can go bad or die if they aren’t refrigerated.

But even probiotics that don’t require refrigeration can also die when exposed to higher temperatures (over 115 degrees Fahrenheit or 46 degrees Celsius).

How Long Can Probiotics Be Left Unrefrigerated?

For probiotics that require refrigeration, even one day being left unrefrigerated could cause a significant reduction in their potency if they’re stored in a high-heat area.

However, the good news is that many manufacturers also take cold-chain issues into consideration, so they add a certain layer of protection (e.g., extra bacteria) to their products so the probiotics can survive a few days out of the fridge or cold delivery truck conditions.

Others also do tests to check how much of the live bacteria actually survive the long delivery process (including possible returns).

The bad news is that there’s no way of telling if that’s what all companies do. So, it’s a good idea to buy from trusted brands that are more likely to take extra steps to ensure that high-quality probiotics reach their customers as intact as possible.

Of course, choosing probiotics that don’t require refrigeration is ideal because you don’t have to worry if they missed the cold chain on the way to your home.

Do Probiotics Die In Water?

During the manufacturing process, probiotics are deactivated but are still alive.

Exposure to water or moisture wouldn’t “drown” your probiotics but this will activate their metabolic activity. If they’re activated outside your tummy, they’re likely to die because they won’t have food and it’s not the natural environment where they can thrive.

What’s The Best Probiotic That Doesn’t Need Refrigeration?

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most used and studied probiotics. However, many of their strains require refrigeration or last longer and work better if placed in the fridge.

Probiotics Saccharomyces boulardii and Bacillus might be your best option because they’re shelf-stable and don’t require refrigeration as long as they are kept in their original containers and stored in optimal conditions.


So if you’re looking for a probiotic to help improve your gut health, it’s important to understand which type will work best for you and whether or not refrigeration is necessary.

Keep in mind that while many probiotics do need to be kept cold, there are also some great shelf-stable options available. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about the right probiotic supplement for you, and don’t forget to keep those gut bugs happy by chilling them out every once in a while.

Brenda L. Mosley

Hi, Brenda here, I have been a health advocate and writer with 10 years of experience in health and nutrition. I also hold a BS in Nutrition Science and am based in Massachusetts with my family. My mission is to impact the world using my health and nutrition experience by sharing, writing, and educating on the internet - and offline too when possible. When I'm not busy writing or engaging in health forums and groups - you'll find me spending time with my 3 kids, eating, or reading literary fiction books.

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