Q: I'd like to start taking some supplements, but a lot of the tablets and gelcaps they come in are huge—and I have a hard time swallowing pills. Call me crazy, but I'm afraid I'll choke. Do you by chance have any suggestions for making pills easier to swallow?
A: Having trouble swallowing pills is a common problem, and you're not alone in your fear. In fact, I sometimes hear the same concerns from customers who buy my own supplements.
Here are a few tips that I give them:
- Tilt your head forward. Capsules, especially, can be tricky to swallow because they have a tendency to float. Most of us tilt our heads back when trying to swallow one, which causes the capsule to float to the front of the mouth. Instead, place the capsule in your mouth, taking a small sip of water while tilting your head slightly forward. The capsule should float right down your throat.
- Use a water bottle. If you have an over-sensitive gag reflex, you can fool that reflex by drinking out of a water bottle. Keep your lips in contact with the bottle and use a sucking action to drink, triggering your swallowing reflex. Tap or distilled water works fine, but carbonated water works even better.
- Purchase a pill crusher. If your health food store doesn’t carry them, check with your local pharmacists. After grinding, you can easily mix the powder with juice. However, there are some pills you shouldn't do this with. For example, I don’t recommend grinding or mixing oil soluble vitamins because exposing them to air causes them to break down and quickly become rancid. Oil- or liquid-filled capsules may have to be punctured and squeezed directly on the tongue. Probiotics are another supplement that you shouldn't crush. Crushing can damage the bacteria as well as any type of delivery mechanism built into the supplement.
- Eat a banana. Now for those pesky pills that get caught in your throat. Normally a stuck pill is only a minor inconvenience; however, certain medications or digestive enzymes can ulcerate throat tissue or cause chest pain and vomiting. If you get a pill stuck, eat a banana. Bananas have just the right mushy, smooth, consistency to dislodge a pill and carry it into the stomach.
I hope that one of those options works for you and that you'll be able to realize the value of taking nutritional supplements. They can certainly make a difference in your health.