Is there a correct way to swallow pills? A new study stresses that your posture when swallowing tablets has an impact on drug absorption.
The study, published in the journal Physics of Fluids, throws light on a little-known aspect of administering medicine. Researchers found a strong association between drug dissolution and the posture maintained during ingestion.
“We were very surprised that posture had such an immense effect on the dissolution rate of a pill,” said senior author Rajat Mittal, a Johns Hopkins engineer. “I never thought about whether I was doing it right or wrong but now I’ll definitely think about it every time I take a pill.”
Oral drugs were considered for the study since they were the most popular form of medicine. The pills are low cost, have an easy intake route and show high patient compliance, researchers wrote in their study.
For simulating pill intake and its dissolution, the team employed a stomach simulator called StomachSim. StomachSim is a realistic model with similar anatomy and morphology as that of the stomach.
The results were overwhelming. The simulations found a strong relationship between body posture and drug bioavailability in the body.
The science behind this finding is actually quite simple.
When a pill is swallowed, it does not generally start disintegrating until it reaches the intestine. So, it makes sense that the position that allows the pill to reach the intestine faster will be more likely to absorb medicine quickly as well.
Four body postures were taken into account during the study – resting on the right side, resting on the left side, standing upright and lying straight back.
The most effective position was lying on the right side, which had 2.3 times more dissolution rate than standing in an upright position. The worst position was lying on the left side.
The research team found that if a tablet took 10 minutes to dissolve while lying on the right side, it may take up to 23 minutes in an upright position and astonishingly, over 100 minutes when lying on the left side.
Standing upright or lying straight back had similar effects on drug dissolution.
This study can have a huge impact on people who are on bed rest.
“For elderly, sedentary or bedridden people, whether they’re turning to left or to the right can have a huge impact,” Mittal said.
Researchers also considered conditions such as gastroparesis, due to which the stomach does not work at full capacity. Gastroparesis is a condition that affects stomach muscles and leads to problems in emptying stomach content. It is caused by diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s syndrome.
“Posture itself has such a huge impact, it’s equivalent to somebody’s stomach having a very significant dysfunction as far as pill dissolution is concerned,” Mittal said.