It’s no secret that probiotics — live bacteria in your gut that you can also buy as supplements — are packed with health benefits. They’re renowned for their ability to boost nutrient absorption, fight inflammation, and enhance digestive health (1).

However, because probiotics are living microorganisms, properly storing them is key.

Since probiotics are available in both refrigerated and shelf-stable varieties, it’s not always easy to remember whether yours needs to go in the fridge or can sit at room temperature in a drawer or on a countertop.

This article explains whether probiotics need to be refrigerated and provides simple tips to maximize their shelf life.

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In order for probiotics to provide health benefits, they must be able to survive from the moment of production until they reach your small intestine.

Many factors affect the survival rate of probiotics, including the moisture content, temperature, and pH of their environment (2).

Certain strains are more sensitive to heat and can die quickly if exposed to high temperatures. Other strains, such as those in the Bacillus genus, can withstand harsh environmental factors more easily and are considered more stable (3, 4).

For this reason, many manufacturers recommend refrigerating certain types of probiotics, which can help keep the bacteria alive longer than storing them at room temperature (5).

Furthermore, many foods that contain probiotics can spoil if not stored at proper temperatures, including dairy products like yogurt or kefir.

On the other hand, some shelf-stable varieties of probiotics are freeze-dried and placed in packaging designed to protect against heat and moisture, so they may not require refrigeration.

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While some strains of probiotics are shelf-stable, others may require refrigerating to extend their shelf life. Certain probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir also spoil if not kept in the fridge.

Generally, most supplement manufacturers say on the label whether probiotics are shelf stable or require refrigeration.

If there are no specific storage instructions listed on the label, your probiotic is likely shelf stable and doesn’t need refrigerating.

Another way to determine whether you should refrigerate your probiotics is to consider how they were stored upon purchase.

For example, probiotics that require refrigeration are typically found in the refrigerated section of the store or pharmacy. Alternatively, if you buy a supplement online and it’s shipped in an ice pack or insulated thermal bag, it’s likely best to refrigerate it once it arrives.

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Most probiotic supplements provide storage instructions on the label. Probiotics that are stored in the refrigerated section of the store or shipped with an ice pack may also require refrigeration.

You can take several simple steps to maximize the shelf life of your probiotic.

For starters, be sure to read the label carefully and practice proper storage by following the directions provided.

If your probiotics come in a blister pack, keep them in the pack until you’re ready to take them instead of transferring them to a bottle or weekly pill case.

Unlike pill bottles that are frequently opened and closed, blister packs protect individual capsules from exposure to heat and humidity, which can ultimately extend their shelf life.

Finally, it’s important to use probiotics prior to the expiration date to ensure maximum potency and effectiveness. While the expiration date varies between products, most shelf-stable probiotics should be used within 1–2 years.

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Practicing proper storage techniques, keeping capsules in a blister pack, and using probiotics before the expiration date can help maximize their shelf life.

Certain types of probiotics are more resistant to heat and environmental factors than others.

As such, some strains require refrigeration, while others are considered shelf stable.

Be sure to check the label for instructions on how to store your supplement, and use some of the tips outlined above to maximize the shelf life.