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Trouble Swallowing Pills? Study Pinpoints Solutions

Monday, January 12, 2015
By Danielle C. Tworek, Nutritionist

2 Tips that Make Swallowing Pills Easier

Are you among the 40 percent of Americans who struggle to swallow pills?

If you’re not, you may be someday — approximately 90 percent of adults will experience difficulty swallowing pills by the age of 90.
It’s an issue worldwide. Nearly one-third of pill-takers across the globe will skip their daily doses to avoid the discomforts of attempting to swallow a pill. And, only about 14 percent report the issue to their doctor. It’s an issue that, if left unaddressed, could cost you your health.
A solution seems simple enough — make the pills smaller or turn them into a cream or liquid, right? Wrong. Despite valiant attempts by drugmakers and supplement manufacturers, the ingredients that will ideally meet your health needs can’t always be molded into more palatable forms.

“It’s a stability issue,” says manufacturing expert Bill Henry, who works with physicians to develop viable supplements. “Many chemical structures are not stable in liquid forms or a small pill size. Researchers spend almost as much time finding a stable, marketable form for a drug or supplement as they do with the discovery.”

No More Choking, Gagging or Regurgitating Your Pills

Cardio Advanced 30 day trialResearchers in Germany identified that this was a problem that wasn’t going to be solved by asking manufacturers to discover new delivery methods. Instead, the team sought to help consumers by uncovering the most effective way to swallow pills.
More than 150 subjects between the ages of 18 and 85 were recruited to try a number of swallowing techniques for 16 different pills of varying shapes, sizes, and textures. 

Initially, subjects were asked to swallow each pill as they normally would with 20 milliliters of water, and then rate eight factors related to the ease with which each pill was swallowed.

Next, each subject was asked try the “pop bottle” technique, focusing on the larger pill sizes from the samples. The “pop bottle” technique requires subjects to place the pill on their tongue and close their lips around the opening of a flexible plastic bottle. With the pill and bottle in place, subjects initiated a sucking action while tilting the head back, forcing the pill and the water to slide down the throat.
Seventy-one percent of the subjects found this method easier than their standard method for taking large pills, while 64 percent rated this method preferable for very large pills.

Although capsules tend to be easier to swallow in general, there are still many people who struggle. Researchers offered the “lean-forward” technique in this case. Subjects were told to place a capsule on the tongue and take a sip of water without swallowing immediately. Instead, subjects were instructed to “bend the head forward by tilting the chin slightly toward the chest,” then, keeping the head in the downward position, swallow capsule and water together.

This method, though seemingly counterintuitive, was rated preferable by 91 percent of the subjects who reported no history of swallowing issues and 82 percent of those who did report swallowing issues.

Both methods overall received higher ratings for factors such as swallowing on the first attempt, reduced “unpleasant feeling in the throat,” and fewer pills lodged in the throat. At the conclusion of the study, 85.6 percent of participants stated they would incorporate these methods into their daily routines. 

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Dr. David Brownstein Medix Select

Dr. David Brownstein is a board-certified family physician, renowned holistic practitioner, and editor of Dr. David Brownstein's Natural Way to Health newsletter.


Dr. Chauncey Crandall Medix Select

Dr. Chauncey Crandall is one of America’s most sought after Cardiologists, has performed over 40,000 heart procedures, and is editor of Dr. Crandall’s Heart Health Report.


Dr. Russell Blaylock Medix Select


Dr. Russell Blaylock is a nationally recognized board-certified neurosurgeon, health practitioner, author, and lecturer and editor of Dr. Blaylock’s The Blaylock Wellness Report.

Dr. Erika Schwartz Medix Select

Erika Schwartz, M.D. is a leading national expert on wellness, disease prevention, and bioidentical hormone therapies and editor of Dr. Erika's Healthy Balance.


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