If you need help figuring out how to swallow a pill, you are not alone. First, we all have the things that seem impossible to us but are amazingly simple to everyone else. Additionally, health professionals often see problems swallowing pills, says Dr. Susan Besser, a GP at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, told SELF. Better yet, it’s a problem they can help you with. If you are having trouble swallowing pills, try some of the tips below so you can get on with your life.
Here’s why you might find it difficult.
You may be wondering if something is wrong with you if you have trouble swallowing a pill, but don’t worry. It’s more likely that you’re having trouble swallowing pills because of your mind, not your body, says Dr. Vinh Nguyen, a family doctor at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told SELF. Simply put, many people who have difficulty with pills tend to think about them or feel anxious and tense for various reasons.
Perhaps you had a scary episode of suffocation when you were young, or you are just worried that you might have one in the future. That̵
If you have been wondering if there is something down your throat making pills difficult to swallow, it is unlikely. Technically, difficulty swallowing (also known as dysphagia according to the Mayo Clinic) can occur for a number of reasons. However, if something is disrupting the process on a structural level, it is likely to affect everything you swallow, not just pills.
“Rarely have I met someone with a structural problem, such as a narrowed esophagus, that could potentially be causing this problem,” says Dr. Morton Tavel, clinical professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, told SELF. Something like chronic heartburn, which can cause acid to get down your throat and create scar tissue that damages and narrows the esophagus, could potentially be causing this problem, says Dr. Nguyen. Otherwise, a physical problem is usually not responsible for difficulty swallowing pills.
You can probably start off with the assumption that your pill fights are in your head, not your body. With that in mind, read on to learn how to swallow a pill using mental and physical tricks.
1. Hide the pill in applesauce.
Since it is often mentally difficult to swallow pills, it can be helpful to mistake yourself that you are only taking something else. Hiding a pill in applesauce is very big for many doctors.
“We actually sent out containers of it for our medical rounds,” certified clinical research coordinator Mary Beth Vonder Meulen, RN, a family medicine nurse at the University of Cincinnati Department of Family and Community Medicine, told SELF. Applesauce usually contains pectin, a gelatinous substance that makes it slippery, she explains. Hiding a pill in a large mouth made from applesauce or some similar soft, smooth food can help your esophagus slide down, especially if you follow its water to move it.
2. Try the pop bottle method.
This popular method consists of placing the pill on the back of your tongue, closing your lips tightly around the opening of a plastic water bottle, and sucking the water out while tilting your head back and holding your lips around the bottle, says Dr. Nguyen. This method works best with tablets (as opposed to capsules), according to a study published in 2014 The annals of family medicinewho tested two techniques to help people struggling to swallow pills in 151 adults. This is because, as the researchers pointed out, the physical properties of pills (such as their density and size) affect how best to take them. When this happens, tablets tend to be heavier and larger, and the “pop-bottle method” helps them sink towards the throat so that they can be swallowed more easily.
3. Lean forward.
This technique, aptly referred to as the “lean-forward method,” consists of placing a pill on the back of your tongue, taking a sip of water (but not swallowing it), tilting your chin toward your chest, and then Swallowing with your head bent forward. “It changes the way people feel about swallowing a pill and can help alleviate some of those psychological aversions,” says Dr. Nguyen. The “Lean Forward Method” was presented in the above-mentioned study alongside the “Pop Bottle Method”. The researchers found them to be most effective for swallowing capsules, as capsules tend to be less dense and you need to consider where they swim. In this case, lean forward so they float closer to your neck.
4. Put the water in your mouth first.
If your problem is that you don’t want to feel the pill on your tongue at all, some people find that they fill their mouths with water first is the way to go. Once you do, you can throw in the pill and swallow it. It may not be the most scientific method, but anecdotally, some people swear by it for tricking their brains a little. And hey whatever works for you.
5. Practice with small, safe sweets.
You can also practice swallowing small, safe objects like small candy to exercise yourself, says Dr. Marc Leavey, an internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, told SELF. He recommends starting with a large pinch or a tic tac, moving up to mini M & Ms, and then moving on to regular M & Ms. Once you deal with either of these, you should be golden to swallow pills.