Mind over Matter: Swallowing Pills

Do you avoid taking medications or supplements because of problems or fear of swallowing pills? Surveys find that most adults have difficulty swallowing pills  but few discuss it with their doctor. A sip of water helps, but some people can’t even swallow a baby aspirin! Why is it so hard for some people to swallow pills?

For some, it’s simply fear. Dr. Cassivi of Mayo Clinic says, “Pill-swallowing difficulty is usually related to a fear of gagging, which might come from a bad experience with taking a pill. Fear of gagging is pretty prominent" and a bad experience can cause one to think a pill is harmful and thus cause the throat muscles to tighten”.  To swallow pills without worry, one has to "get over the mental hump" and relax the muscles.

Unknown to many people, pill swallowing has phases- three to be exact. The first phase involves chewing to soften and moisten foods to be swallowed. The second phase is moving food to the back of the mouth and the airway temporarily closes to allow the food to pass without “going the wrong way”. The third phase is the automatic contraction of swallowing that moves the food into the stomach.  Not being able to chew a hard substance like a pill can throw the mind-body connection in swallowing off.


Don't miss out on essential nutrients for your bones because of a fear of swallowing pills. Try these tips:

1. Place the pill in the back of the mouth to trigger the second and third phases of swallowing. Many pet owners know that they can give pills to their pet dog by placing it as far back in the throat as possible so it goes down automatically.

2. Use some liquid to moisturize the mouth and fool it into swallowing without chewing because liquids are swallowed directly without the need to chew. If water doesn’t work, then try putting the pill in a spoonful of yogurt, applesauce, or other soft food that doesn’t require chewing.

3. Tilt your head back, or turn your head to one side to help close the airway and open the pathway for food to go directly to the stomach. Tilting the head back is well-known but try turning your head to one side if backwards isn’t enough.

4. Take a deep breath before swallowing so the windpipe can stay closed for a longer period of time. A deep breath can give a psychological boost to those who have trouble swallowing pills.

5. Visualize the pill going down easily or tell yourself that the pill is smaller than a piece of meat that you can swallow easily. Another thing to tell yourself is that you don’t need to worry about the pill going down the wrong way. Your vocal cords will automatically shut out any food that accidentally goes towards the wind pipe. That may cause gagging but it won’t cause you to choke.

6. Some people will cut pills in half, crush them, or simply chew them to make them easier to swallow. This is OK except for slow release pills that should be swallowed whole. Many medicines have a bad taste when chewed, and flavors are sometimes added to the powders for improved taste.  It’s important to check that these additives are safe.

Finally, if none of these tips work and you still can't brave a pill,  opt for powder formulas when possible.  Silical System Powder is a unique non-pill formula that provides calcium & vitamin D plus nutrients like silicon to shore up the collagen foundation of bone. If you already take a calcium, magnesium and vitamin D supplement, add Silical 2 Powder to your daily regimen for optimal bone health.

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