Down The Hatch! Six Tips to Help You Swallow Pills With a Smile
Down The Hatch! Six Tips to Help You Swallow Pills With a Smile
By Vital Plan Posted 03-03-2017

If you have trouble swallowing pills, you’re not alone.

Many people find that taking oral medications, vitamins or supplements of any kind is a challenge. The fear, gag reflex, or feeling that the supplement is stuck somewhere in your throat – you may experience one or more of these sensations when taking any kind of pill.

In fact, a recent Harris Interactive survey reported that 40% of American adults have difficulty swallowing pills, yet no problems with food or liquids. Women often have a harder time of it than men.

On the other hand, in some ways the revulsion to downing pills whole is somewhat natural. According to Leanne Goldberg, who treats swallowing and voice disorders at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, “A pill is a solid substance. We learned that we have to chew something that is solid. It takes a mental shift to relax the throat and be able to swallow something that we fear could cause us to choke.”

Additional emotional issues or fears may be at play here too. For instance, you may associate pills with past painful moments, such as being sick as a child and having to take medicine that tasted awful. Those memories can be re-stimulated in the present – sometimes by merely looking at a supplement bottle sitting on the kitchen counter.

It doesn’t have to stay this way.

You can overcome your swallowing fears and troubles. In fact, it’s vital to solve this challenge. Otherwise, you may miss out on powerful herbal supplements that can have a profound impact on your health and wellbeing.

Use these six tips to sweep away those fears so you can gain the marvelous health benefits of supplements.

TIP #1: Start slowly. Herbal supplements are generally well tolerated. As you start a new regimen, you may fare better by taking your partial daily amounts and gradually build up to the recommended serving. This will also help you ease into the habit of successfully taking your supplements.

TIP #2: Relax and visualize success. The fear and stress of swallowing a pill can make your throat muscles tighten up — making the process even more difficult. So just take a quiet moment beforehand to relax, take some deep breaths, and visualize those pills sliding down effortlessly. Positive imagery can go a long way.

TIP #3: Put away your water bottle. It may sound counterintuitive, but thick liquids like coconut milk are more viscous than water and can help the pills go down easier. Research shows that coconut fat globules surround the capsule and act as an emulsifying agent to assist absorption of the herbs. Whiz up a juice smoothie made with coconut milk and it’s even easier – and tastier.

TIP #4: Mix with food. Some people wrap a tiny piece of soft bread around capsules before swallowing. Others drop them onto a spoonful of applesauce, yogurt or mashed banana. Experiment until you find what works for you.

TIP #5: Eat something right after taking the capsules. This may assure the capsules are working their way smoothly down your throat.

TIP #6: Open the herbal supplement capsule and mix the powdered content into a smoothie or your favorite drink. Be forewarned, however – many herbs have a powerful smell and aftertaste so this may not be a pleasant experience.

BONUS TIP: Divide and conquer. Separate your supplements based on when you take them throughout the day – morning, noon and night, for instance. Put them into small cups or baggies and label them to fit your schedule. Seeing (and feeling; for instance, if you keep them in a purse or pocket) in advance how many capsules you will need to take offers you the chance to implement some of these tips beforehand.

You may never be one of those people who can grab a giant handful of pills and happily gulp them down all at once (and yes, there are people who can do this just fine). But if you follow some of these tips you can minimize the fear, make taking supplements more tolerable, and pave a path toward better health. Now, down the hatch!

About the Medical Director
Dr. Bill Rawls
Dr. Bill Rawls has practiced conventional medicine as a gynecologist for
over 20 years and is also the co-founder and medical director of Vital Plan, a wellness and herbal supplement company.
Dr. Bill Rawls


Dr. Rawls graduated from Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1985 and he holds a medical license in North Carolina. He also has extensive training in alternative therapies and is Medical Director of Vital Plan, an herbal supplement company in Raleigh, N.C.

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