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Fridge vs shelf stable probiotics – everything you need to know

Historically, probiotics were confined to the fridge but nowadays, you can also find them on the shelf. You might be wondering whether this makes a difference to their quality, efficacy and viability?  Probiotics are living microorganisms and notoriously delicate so careful and correct storage is required for them to survive.

What’s the difference between fridge and shelf storage?

When it comes to probiotics, proper storage is key. Probiotics are sensitive and affected by temperature fluctuations and moisture. If they fall outside their temperature range, they will start to breakdown, and this can impact their effectiveness. For the bacteria to be alive when you take them, they must remain dormant inside the capsule or powder and be protected from warmth and humidity. In the past, the only way to achieve this was through refrigeration, which provides a stable temperature of 4° to 8° Celsius and a low humidity environment. However, moisture protection technology has since been developed to make probiotics shelf stable and fridge free. Many Inner Health probiotic supplements use Activ-Vial™ technology to keep the probiotic bacteria alive and at full strength in Australian temperatures, making them suitable for the cupboard or shelf. Activ-Vial™ technology provides next generation probiotic protection from the probiotic experts of over 30 years. It involves an insulated desiccant lined bottle that continually absorbs moisture, protecting the probiotic bacteria to ensure they are always alive, long after the bottle is opened. Activ-Vial™ provides greater protection than the industry standard.

Using a refrigerated or shelf-stable probiotic is mostly a matter of preference. You’ll be getting the probiotic benefits with either option. One of the positives of a shelf stable probiotic supplement is its convenience and portability. It can sit on the kitchen bench, in a cupboard or on your work desk and you can continue taking it when travelling. Probiotic supplements that require refrigeration may be preferable for people who live in very hot climates. Certain probiotic strains are especially sensitive to heat and degrade quickly if exposed to high temperatures. These will usually be in refrigerated formulations.

How do you know if your probiotic needs refrigerating or not?

If your product needs to be refrigerated, it will be stated on the label. It will usually say something like “Store at 2°C to 8°C. Refrigerate. Do not freeze.” If your probiotic is shelf stable, it will state its storage requirements on the label too - “Store below 25°C. No refrigeration required.”

It is highly important that you store your probiotic supplement properly, so the bacteria remain viable, and you get the benefits you’re after. 

You can also maximise the shelf life of your probiotic by keeping it in its original bottle, not putting it in a weekly pill container, since the bottle is key to protecting the capsules/powder from heat and humidity. It is also important that you store your probiotics in a cool, dry place. Not in your car or in the bathroom cabinet, which can be too hot and humid and affect their survival. Finally, make sure you use your probiotic supplement before its expiry date, as it will be less effective past this time.

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