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This is how you are supposed to swallow pills

Heroes: 151 volunteers swallowed a bunch of pills for science

Joanna Rothkopf
November 12, 2014 10:08PM (UTC)

A group of 151 German volunteers sacrificed their gag reflexes to figure out the most efficient method of swallowing pills. If you are like me and often have little chalky tablets get stuck in your throat causing you to spit out water onto your computer and lap while you are at work, then you should personally write every one of them a thank you note.

According to a recent study, about one-third of people have trouble taking pills. Researchers at the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology and Biopharmaceutics at the University of Heidelberg knew that and decided to figure out a solution with a group of volunteers, aged 18 to 85, a little more than half of whom have trouble swallowing pills.


The Los Angeles Times reports:

The researchers asked the volunteers to close their eyes and do their best to swallow each of the 16 test pills with 20 milliliters of water. All capsules and tablets were rated for their ease (or difficulty) of swallowing, using an eight-point scale. For each volunteer, the "large" and "very large" sizes of the pill shapes that caused the most trouble were used for the rest of the experiment.

The researchers found that there are two methods that greatly ease pill-swallowing, depending on whether you are taking a tablet or a capsule.

For tablets, use the "pop-bottle method": Put the tablet on your tongue and close your mouth around the opening of a plastic water bottle. Take a sip of water, while "keeping contact between the bottle and your lips by pursing your lips and using a sucking motion." If you have to swallow water and a pill at the same time, there is less of an opportunity to get tripped up by the task.


For capsules, use the "lean-forward technique": Put a capsule on your tongue and take a sip of water, keeping the water in your mouth for a moment. Then, "bend the head forward by tilting your chin slightly toward your chest." Then, swallow water and pill with your head in this tilted position.

Armed with these techniques, go forth unafraid of even the most massive horse pills!

Joanna Rothkopf

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Gagging Lifehacks Medicine Pills Research Science

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