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Swallowing Difficulties

When I was younger I was super at swallowing pills.  Never choked, never felt fear of choking on pills, even as a child.  Of course, how many pills do you take as a child, right?

As I grew older though, I began to struggle with swallowing some pills.  It probably started in my late 50s. There were some supplements that I was taking, or should I say trying to take, that I finally just had to stop taking.  After all it wasn’t going to do any good anyway if I was dead on the floor with a huge pill stuck in my throat!  Calcium was one of them.  Thank you pharmaceutical companies for creating the petite calcium pill!  I can now continue to prevent osteoporosis!

As I was struggling to take large pills, my husband was continuing to be able to swallow his without a problem.  Until recently that is, when I gave him a large vitamin C.  He commented later that he had a hard time swallowing that pill. I thought, huh, maybe it’s not just me.  I was well aware that the elderly often have difficulty swallowing their medication, but I don’t consider myself elderly!

I began to do some research to see how big the problem actually is and find suggestions to help the medicine go down.

I found a study that was written in the Scientific American, Health after 50 magazine that stated 40% of adults nationwide had experienced some difficulty in swallowing pills.  Unfortunately this sometimes leads people to crush their pills or open capsules, which can be very harmful because many pills have to be taken as you receive them from the pharmacist to work correctly.

Be aware that altering your mediation by crushing, splitting, dissolving, opening or chewing your pills can lead to:

  • Decreased effectiveness
  • Increased toxicity – many pills are designed to be time released, meaning they release medication into your bloodstream slowly.  By altering the pill in any way the entire dosage is released at once.  This could have disastrous results!
  • Enteric coated – these are tablets that are coated to protect your stomach from irritation.  By altering these the enteric coating is destroyed leading to gastric irritation.

Bottom line – never split, crush, dissolve, open or chew any medication without approval from your doctor and pharmacist!  If they approve, then purchase a pill splitter or crusher.  These are easily found and are not very expensive.

Having trouble swallowing those pills? 7 things you can do to help the medicine go down! #pills #medication #swallowing Click To Tweet

If you are having troubling swallowing your pills, be sure and tell your doctor.  They may want to do an easy procedure to look into your throat and stomach to make sure there is not a medical reason.  They may also be able to prescribe a form of the medication that will make it easier for you to swallow.

After your doctor has checked you out and found nothing wrong there are some things that you can do, other than a spoonful of sugar, that might help the medicine go down!

  1. Before you take your pill, take a deep breath and exhale.  This action may help you relax and inhibit your gag reflex.
  2. Drink some water before taking your pill to lubricate your mouth and throat to stop the pill from sticking.
  3. Place the pill as far back on your tongue as you can and take a sip of water.
  4. As you swallow, tilt your chin slightly toward your chest.
  5. Don’t throw your head back when swallowing  This action stretches the esophagus and makes it harder to swallow.
  6. Try drinking from a flexible, plastic water bottle with a narrow opening.  Close your lips tightly around the bottle, which sets up a sucking action.  (You should feel the bottle collapsing in on itself.)
  7. Mix the pill with applesauce or Jell-O before swallowing it.

(A Tough Pill to Swallow, Scientific American Health after 50, July 2015, Volume 27. Issue 6)

I hope this information has been helpful to you or someone you know; have a wonderful day!




This information is not intended to provide advice on personal medical matters or to substitute for consultation with a physician.  If you are experiencing difficulty swallowing, consult with your physician!  

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