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Probiotic Predicament Week #3: Traveling With Your Probiotics

As summer launches into full swing, travel plans fall into place and one’s daily routine can get lost in the midst of waking up late, driving long distances or waiting for that delayed flight. Remembering to be health conscious with your diet can also fall to the wayside—and taking your supplements? Well, it might not always be at the top of the priority list, especially if they’re tucked away in a bag or worse, if they need refrigeration and you just don’t have access to that sort of thing while traveling.
This is a situation I came across on a recent adventure to south Florida. The probiotic product I have been taking for the last three weeks is one that can be found in the refrigerator at your local natural foods market and so the question must be asked “Must this product remain refrigerated” and furthermore, how warm is too warm if you can’t take a cooler with you?
What I discovered on my travels was that most places: the airport, the car rides and the houses in which I stayed were thoroughly air conditioned, which helped me not to worry so much about the bacteria becoming ineffective. It was my goal to get those capsules into the fridge as soon as I could and did so after about six hours of travelling.
Research I have collected warns against any time outside of a refrigerated environment to guarantee the efficacy of the product, but realistically, and what I had to convince myself of, was that from the manufacturer to the store, these products can only remain cool for so long. They are packed with ice packs, but are generally at room temperature upon receipt, with the retailer getting the product into a more ideal environment as soon as possible, which leads me to believe that as long as the capsules aren’t exposed to extreme heat (for instance any temperature above seventy degrees) that generally the product can remain stable and effective.
Considering I got the capsules into a refrigerator within hours of taking them out, I had confidence that the bacteria, for the most part remained intact, as the benefits I had been feeling during week two continued into week three, despite my travels.
Further research ensures that the measures I took to prevent my product from spoiling were the most effective way to travel with a probiotic, should refrigeration become an issue. As an experiment I did, however, remove one of the capsules and place it in my pocket, carrying it throughout my trip to Florida. Upon arrival, I compared that capsule to the ones in the small container that resided in my backpack and the difference between the two was highly noticeable. The one in my pocket turned an almost brownish yellow color, where at the start, the powder inside of the capsules is a simple off white color. The vegetable capsule itself also discolored which goes to show that even just body heat can destroy a probiotic.
There are, however, plenty of options for shelf stable probiotics, meaning that the technology for encapsulating these products has developed far enough to create a supplement that can thrive in room temperature. These can usually be found in the digestive health section of the supplement department and are ideal for travel, as probiotics can be a bit of an investment and for a consumer who is budget conscious, risking the efficacy of the product can be disconcerting.
The option I chose, not wanting to repurchase a shelf stable supplement solely for the purpose of travel was to only take as many capsules with me as the days I would be gone. That way, I didn’t compromise the entire bottle. I did this by just transferring the capsules into a separate container and packing them into the bag I considered my personal item on the plane, so I knew the environment they were exposed to the entire time.
On the road, one might be inclined to bring a cooler with them, not only for drinks and other healthy snack options, but to also serve as a failsafe plan to keep the supplement fresh.

Safe Travels,

C. Rizzo