“We were very surprised that posture had such an immense effect on the dissolution rate of a pill,” says senior author Rajat Mittal, a Johns Hopkins engineer and an expert in fluid dynamics. “I honestly 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.”
How can this be? Well, most pills do not start working until the stomach ejects their contents into the intestine. And while I think most of us have a mental picture of the stomach as this swirling vat of acid, jostling around somewhere in the middle of our bodies, it’s really a fairly empty J-shaped organ that produces enzymes and acids to help break down food so it can pass through your gastrointestinal tract. It’s not until the partially dissolved foods make their way into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), that the nutrients start to be absorbed.
So the closer a pill lands to the lower part of the stomach, the faster it starts to dissolve and empty its contents through the valve at the base of the stomach into the duodenum. That’s why your positioning when taking a pill matters. It also means that you don’t have to stay in that position, just make sure you’re leaning to the right when you swallow a pill to deposit it into the prime spot. And while the exact duration it takes for pills to dissolve in various postures might vary by type of pill or capsule (along with how much food is in the stomach), the timing the researchers came up with is still a pretty good approximation. So keep that in mind the next time you’re looking for quick relief from pain.