Have you ever been given medication to take by the doctor, or bought yourself some kind of health supplement, only to be dismayed upon opening it?
Sometimes it seems as though the average tablet size is getting larger and larger and that manufacturers have no regard for how useable their products are. And don’t think you’re just being silly – these days many tablets are actually only slightly smaller than the average gullet size, meaning you really do have to develop the skill in order to get it right. And in fact, the inability to swallow is actually a recognized condition in itself called ‘dysphagia’. Swallowing is actually a pretty complex feat too – utilizing a total of 25 pairs of muscles in the mouth and throat.
Sadly, it’s unlikely that drug companies are going to change their ways any time soon. However, you can use a number of techniques to make this a little easier…
One tip is to try tilting your head down. While most of us assume that we should tilt our heads back in order to help us swallow the water and tablet, the reality is that doing this actually causes the esophagus to close up and the trachea to open!
So instead, try tilting your head forward and you will force close the windpipe and open up your gullet. This will help the pill to slide down more easily!
Another option is to try a technique referred to as the ‘Pop Bottle’ method, based on research conducted by the University of Heidelberg in Germany (1). In the study, it was found that this method led to an improvement of 60% versus the traditional method.
To try the pop bottle method for yourself, first fill a plastic water bottle and then place the tablet on your tongue as normal. Now close your lips around the bottle opening and take a gulp using a sucking motion without letting any air into the bottle or your mouth.
Another option is to grind your pill down or to split it in half.
However, it’s important to make sure you can split a pill safely before you give it a try. The best way to find this out is to discuss with your doctor but another clue might be if the pill is scored down the middle. Sometimes this is also encouraged in order to enable the user to take a lower dose of the given medication.
Problems can emerge however if pill splitting damages an external coating that is designed to slow the release of active ingredients, or if it results in an incorrect dosage. This is why it’s very important to check with your doctor before you go ahead.
If it turns out you can split your pill, then you might also want to consider grinding it. Many pills that can be split can also be ground up and added to a yogurt or sandwich to make it that much more palatable.