Taking pills usually means thinking about factors that might affect how well they will work. We usually wonder if it is better to take them with food, but we had never thought about the proper posture. Luckily, a study discovers it.
According to thestudy published in the journal Physics of Fluids, the position of the body when swallowing a pill could affect how well it is absorbed.
Standing or lying to the right
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University found that when a pill is taken orally, posture and body position can have a big influence on how quickly the drug is absorbed.
If we are standing or lying down and leaning to the right, the pill falls very close to the final region of the stomach. Therefore, it dissolves quite quickly. However, if we lie down and lean to the left, we could be in the worst possible position in terms of quickly dissolving the pill.
For the study, the team used a model that is based on the realistic anatomy and structure of the stomach, aptly named “StomachSim.” Through physics and biomechanics, the simulator can mimic what happens inside a human stomach as it digests food or, in this case, medicine.
The team tested four postures and body positions for taking medications orally:
- Standing/sitting upright
- lying on the back
- Lying down turned to the right
- Lying down turned to the left
The simulation showed that taking pills lying on the right side was the best position because it allowed the medicine to flow into the deepest part of the stomach. Once there, the drugs dissolved twice as fast as when taken sitting down. On the other hand, lying on your left side or leaning to the left was the worst position to be in: It took up to five times longer to absorb pills compared to taking them upright.
How do you know if you land on your side or on your feet?
Posture has a great effect on how pills dissolve because the stomach is asymmetrical. The organ curves from the left to the right of the body. A pill is also slightly heavier than the contents of the stomach (since it is made up mostly of water).
Due to gravity, the tablet will tend to settle in the direction of gravity. So depending on how we lean, whether we’re standing or lying down, it can really affect where in the stomach the pill lands.
However, most pills do not start to work until the contents of the capsule are released from the stomach into the intestine. If a pill lands very close to the lowest part of the stomach (the exit, more or less), the faster it will begin to dissolve and empty its contents into the upper part of the small intestine.
In the stomach, it usually dissolves into a liquid and then continues through the gastrointestinal tract. Most of the medication is absorbed in the small intestine for most medications. The amount of time they spend in various parts of the GI tract can affect their absorption.
Thanks to gravity and the natural irregularity of the stomach, it makes sense that the position you’re in when you take a pill could affect how it makes its way through your gastrointestinal system.