Which position is the best?: Posture influences the speed of action of tablets

Which position is the best?: Posture influences the speed of action of tablets

Which position is the best? Posture influences the speed at which tablets work

08/17/2022, 18:45

Apparently, as with many things in life, taking pills is a matter of attitude. A US research team uses computer simulations to figure out which position is best to swallow a pill in order for it to take effect as quickly as possible.

Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, or Aspirin: These pain relievers, like most other medications, come in pill form. This makes them easier to administer than, for example, by injection. At the same time, however, it also means that they have to travel a long way in the human body before they take effect. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University investigated whether the time it takes to kick in can be sped up by how you take the pill.

For their study, which was published in the journal “Physics of Fluids”, Rajat Mittal’s team developed a computer model that realistically reproduces the shape of the stomach, but also its contractions and the flow of gastric juice. Why: The faster a pill passes through the stomach, the faster it can work. However, “gastric contractions generate pressure and shear forces that lead to the complex transport pathways of a pill,” the researchers write.

For testing, they reconstructed the path and dissolution time of a typical pain reliever. They simulated four different postures when swallowing: standing, lying on the left or right side, or lying on the back.

The simulation showed that the posture when taking the pill can accelerate the effect by about an hour, but can also delay it, depending on the position in which the pain reliever is taken. The research team writes that lying on the right side of the body is not the most favorable position, as one would probably assume. This is because the pill was dissolved twice as fast as in a sitting or standing position.

When the tablet has to “up”.

The reason: when standing or sitting, the upright posture delays the transport of the pill because gravity brings it to a region with less favorable gastric juice currents. So it takes longer to get to the stomach outlet in the lower right corner. According to the study, the pill can hit the stomach outlet even worse if you take it lying on your left side. The effect only appears after more than 100 minutes, as the tablet has to be transported “upwards” against gravity on its way to the exit of the stomach. The researchers conclude that this position of the body can make it difficult to absorb the active substance in a similar way to some diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

“We were very surprised that posture had such an impact on how quickly a pill dissolves,” writes study author Rajat Mittal. When patients swallow pain relievers while lying on their right side, gastric contractions, gastric juice currents and gravity work together optimally to quickly propel the pill into the anus and dissolve it. In computer simulations, it often took just ten minutes for the pain reliever to reach the duodenum — about 2.3 times faster than when the patient was standing.

“Especially for older people who are less mobile or even bedridden, correct lateral position can be of considerable importance,” Mittal writes. However, he and his team somewhat limit the validity of their study. Computer simulations are very useful but very simplified models of complex processes. The amount of liquid, gas and food in the stomach can also affect digestion. Therefore, further investigation is needed.