I’m often contacted by people who struggle to swallow tablets and capsules, including the smallest ones in my Just For Tummies product range, the Garlic tablets, and they are tiny! I know some people have a strong gag reflex, and many people harbour a fear of choking, but I also think people perhaps rush too much when taking their supplements. I know I do it sometimes, and I am not usually one to struggle with swallowing a tablet or capsule. However, I have been known to still have a supplement in my mouth whilst I’m rushing out of the door, and then I wonder why it feels stuck halfway down my oesophagus.
It’s important to have a kind of supplement taking ritual – rushing out of the door is NOT the right time to be popping a tablet in your mouth, so do not follow this bad example of mine!
As we age, the muscles that support the throat and oesophagus can become weak and the throat and oesophagus can become flaccid, which can make swallowing more of a challenge. Anxiety and stress can also put us into ‘fight or flight’ mode and the brain will just close down the digestion process, including slowing down production of saliva, which is needed to help swallowing, and slowing down the contraction/relaxation of the oesophagus. The result – you can’t swallow!
Swallowing isn’t as simple as it looks. Nerves help your mouth, throat, and oesophagus work together to move food, liquids, and pills into your digestive tract. Most of the time when you swallow, you don’t have to think about the reflexes at work. But when it comes to swallowing tablets or capsules, you become suddenly all too aware of everything that goes into swallowing. The more you think about it, the more difficult it becomes. You may feel your throat tightening right now, just thinking about the act of swallowing a tablet.
Ways to make swallowing supplements easier
- Try taking a generous swig of water before placing the tablet or capsule in your mouth. Visualise yourself successfully swallowing the tablet before you try to swallow. If you gag or feel like you can’t swallow, carefully remove the tablet or capsule and give yourself a few minutes before trying again.
- Ensure you have plenty of saliva in your mouth before you swallow. This will help lubricate the oesophagus.
- Lean back – start with your chin up and your shoulders back as you place the tablet in your mouth, then take a medium-sized sip of water. Quickly (but carefully) tilt your head forward as you swallow. The idea is to move the tablet back towards your throat as you tilt your head forward, giving you something else to focus on as you swallow.
- You can try to swallow your supplements by using a straw to wash them down. The reflex movement of sucking up liquid while you seal the straw off with your lips can distract you while you get your supplements down.
- Make sure you take your supplements when you have time to spare. Be in a relaxed state of mind, and take time to prepare whatever supplements you take. Get them out of their pots, prepare your glass of cold water, and then just be in the moment of taking the supplements.
- If you take supplements when you feel anxious, or you are in a rush, then there is a good chance that they will get stuck. If you do get a tablet or capsule stuck in your throat, don’t panic, remember that this is only temporary, and a good drink of water will help push it down.
- You might find it easier to swallow the tablet or capsule with food (with the exception of our activated Charcoal capsules). You can open up our probiotic capsules (Live Bacteria, For Women) and sprinkle the powder into food.
- You can split and crush the tablets (Digestive Enzymes, Garlic, Milk Thistle) using a tablet splitter. Watch my video to see how this is done. Please note that we only recommend the use of the tablet splitter with these Just For Tummies products; do not try to use it with other medication until you have checked with your medical practitioner.
I hope you find these tips and the video useful, and you now feel more confident about taking your supplements.
If you have any questions, please get in touch.