BY Lucy Taylor September 12, 2019
With so many probiotic products on the pharmacy shelves, it’s easy to feel confused and overwhelmed, particularly if you don’t happen to have a degree in microbiology up your sleeve!
Some of the most commonly asked consumer questions about probiotic products are:
In response, we’ve put together this two-part guide to help take the guesswork out of probiotic products, so you can feel confident that you’re purchasing a high quality product that will do what it claims on the label.
In part 1, we’re going to take a look at probiotic stability, which is key to ensuring your probiotics are alive when you take them, and able to do what they say they will on the box or bottle
Firstly, it helps to understand what probiotics actually are. Probiotics are currently defined as ‘live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’. In simple terms, this means that probiotics must be a) alive, b) in a suitably high dose, and c) have a well-defined health benefit.
Bacteria are living organisms, which are classified as microorganisms, as they are so small they can only be seen with the aid of a microscope. Prior to being packaged, probiotics are freeze-dried to remove all moisture, putting the bacteria in a dormant state. This state is just like a very deep sleep, or a period of hibernation. The bacteria remain dormant until they come back into contact with moisture, which should only happen when they are released from the capsule in your gut.
If the probiotics happen to come into contact with moisture before you take them, they will wake up from their dormant state and quickly die off, as they don’t have access to food. As such, keeping moisture away from probiotics supplements is incredibly important. Many companies add a desiccant sachet to the jar or bottle of probiotic capsules to absorb moisture, though this isn’t optimal, as the capsules can still come into contact with moisture before being scavenged by the chemical in the sachet.
The most effective way to keep moisture away from a probiotic capsule is in pharmaceutical-grade blister packaging, which not only protects against moisture in the air but light (if opaque) and oxygen, too. For this reason, all Activated Probiotics™ probiotic capsules are packaged in opaque, aluminium blister packaging, rather than in a jar or bottle, which introduces moisture and oxygen as soon as the cap seal is broken.
In addition to keeping out moisture, probiotics must also be protected against temperature extremes, which is why most manufacturers recommend storing their products below 25°C. But does this mean that probiotics stored in the fridge at the pharmacy are superior? In short, no, it doesn’t. If the manufacturer has gone above and beyond to ensure that the product is shelf-stable, they do not need to be refrigerated. For additional peace of mind, look for probiotic products with a guarantee that the product will contain the number of probiotics stated on the label, right up until the end of their shelf-life, which is generally a period of 24 months from the date it was manufactured.