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Have trouble swallowing pills? You're probably doing it wrong

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Did you know that nearly one-third of the population has difficulty swallowing pills?

But now, researchers have found new techniques that make pill popping easier, even for large pills.

Most people don't swallow pills correctly. This often results in gagging, choking and vomiting. And that usually results in people not taking their medications at all, resulting in a need for later additional medical care.

"Some of the patients avoided the recommended dosage because of this problem," says Dr. Walter Haefeli of the University of Heidelberg. "And that's not good."

So what's the proper way to swallow a pill? German researchers decided to test two specific methods with a group of 151 volunteers, men and women aged 18 to 85 with about half the group reporting problems taking pills.

Researchers gave these volunteers a total of 16 pills, representing most shapes and sizes. In the first test, researchers asked the men and women to use their standard method of taking pills and rate each experience on difficulty of swallowing. As expected, the larger pills gave volunteers the most issues.

Narrowing down their experiment to just those large pills, researchers then told volunteers to try the "pop-bottle" technique of swallowing. With this method, you put the tablet on your tongue and then close the lips around the top of a water bottle. You take a drink, while "keeping contact between the bottle and your lips by pursing your lips and using a sucking motion." This results in pills sliding down the throat.

This method worked for about two-thirds of the volunteers, especially with the largest tablets.

The second method tested was the "lean forward" technique. With this method, you put the capsule on your tongue, take a sip of water, but don't swallow yet. Then you lean your head forward and swallow the capsule while in that position. This doesn't make a lot of sense, but in the research, leaning forward worked even better than the pop-bottle technique. Over 80 percent of volunteers with problems swallowing pills reported improvement with this method.

Both of these techniques, however, impressed volunteers. Most said they would adopt either of these methods in their daily lives.

"In conclusion, this study showed for the first time that two targeted techniques to facilitate tablet and capsule intake were remarkably effective and easy to adopt in the general population including patients with swallowing difficulties, and should therefore be generally recommended," the study authors write.

[Photo Credit: Free Images]

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