Study suggests pills work fastest if taken while lying on right side

When taking a pill such as a pain reliever, it goes without saying that you want it to work as fast as possible. According to a new study, taking that pill while lying on your right side will help it to do so.

In most cases when a pill is swallowed, it doesn’t begin working until its dissolved contents are ejected from the stomach into the intestine. The pylorus, which connects the stomach to the top part of intestine, is located at the bottom of the stomach. It therefore follows that the deeper a pill is initially able to get within the stomach, the sooner it can dissolve and get ejected.

Led by Prof. Rajat Mittal, a team at Johns Hopkins University set out to see which body position would work best for getting a pill the lowest in the shortest amount of time. In order to do so, they created a computer model of the human stomach, known as StomachSim. That model simulates what takes place inside the stomach as food – or in this case a pill – is digested.

Common sense would seem to dictate that an upright posture would be the best bet. However, due to the asymmetric shape of the stomach, it was found that lying on the right side allowed a pill to dissolve 2.3 times faster than if it were taken while standing upright.

In other words, whereas a pill taken when standing would take 23 minutes to dissolve, it would only take 10 minutes when lying on the right side. Lying on the left side is the worst choice, with the pill taking over 100 minutes to dissolve.

Of course, you couldn’t just get right back up again after swallowing the pill. Mittal told us that while it would vary according to the type of pill, the model suggests that people should generally remain lying on their right side for about half an hour after taking fast-acting medications like pain relievers.

“We were very surprised that posture had such an immense effect on the dissolution rate of a pill,” he said. “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.”

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Fluids.

Source: Johns Hopkins University

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