Two hands holding small red supplement capsules

5 Tricks to Make Taking Pills Easier

LAST UPDATED: August 19, 2021

Taking pills, whether they are vitamins, supplements or medications, is necessary for optimal health and wellbeing. However, lots of people have trouble swallowing pills. The size of the tablets, a dry mouth, a fear of choking, or difficulty swallowing can make taking any prescribed medication or supplement tough. 

Swallowing a pill can cause one in three people to have an adverse reaction, such as gagging, choking, or vomiting. The good news is that taking your supplements or prescription pills doesn’t have to be a “hard pill to swallow.”

Hands holding four different pills

Why is it Hard to Swallow Pills?

Swallowing, and especially swallowing hard food items without chewing, isn’t as simple as it seems. You have to use the nerves in your throat, mouth, and esophagus to move the food, pills, or liquids into your digestive tract. 

Some conditions prevent people from swallowing pills efficiently. Other people may experience phagophobia (or the fear of swallowing).

There’s something called the globus sensation, which is a tightness in your throat (when not related to external pressure) that comes on by a sense of fear or dread. This may be experienced when someone is stressed or anxious, and it may even occur when you think about swallowing a pill. 

Overcoming these fears involves not focusing on swallowing and can be improved with time and practice. 

Additionally, some children may not know how to swallow a pill correctly. Therefore, you may have to practice with the child. Some methods can be used, such as having your child sit up straight in a chair and practicing with something small, like a sprinkle. Some products are available to help the child get the pill down their throat, like pill-swallowing cups and medical straws.

Multiple packs of pills in clear boxes on blue background

Techniques to Help You Swallow a Pill 

Sometimes having trouble swallowing a pill comes down to technique. Do you know how to swallow a pill? Here are 5 different methods to try:

1. Try the Pop-bottle Method

The pop-bottle method is one of the best methods for swallowing tablets.

Research has shown that by using the pop-bottle method, 60% of subjects could improve how they swallowed large and very large pills over the conventional method of taking a sip of water from a cup. 

To complete this method, grab a bottle of water or soda. Put the tablet on your tongue and then close your lips around the bottle opening. 

Take a drink while keeping the bottle on your lips and using a sucking motion. This will push the water down your throat and make it easier to swallow the water and pill together. 

Make sure to keep air out of the bottle!

Man outside drinking out of a water bottle

2. Lean Forward Method

Another method for pill swallowing is the lean forward method. This method showed an 89% improvement over the method of taking a sip from a cup. 

The lean-forward technique involves putting a capsule on your tongue. You then take a sip of water, but you don’t swallow it just yet. 

Tilt your chin towards your chest (this allows the water to take the capsule on your tongue and swirl it around in your mouth). Then you swallow the pill while your head is bent forward. 

Glass of water on wooden desk with two white pills

3. Drink Lots of Water

Another method for pill swallowing is simply to drink a lot of water. This method may require some tweaking on your end, but it is relatively straightforward. 

Start by putting a pill in your mouth and then visualizing yourself successfully swallowing the pill without choking. You then drink as much water as you can, slowly and steadily, until the pill is gone. Try not to overdo it!

Close up of a woman drinking a glass of water

4. Bury the Pill in a Soft Food (Like Applesauce or Yogurt)

Sometimes it can be hard to swallow a pill because we are used to avoiding swallowing hard things without chewing. 

Therefore, if you hide it in soft food, you could trick your mind into forgetting that there is a pill. 

Sometimes the pill might lose its effectiveness when mixed with soft foods, so double-check with your doctor that this is okay.

A white bowl of yogurt topped with berries and granola on a table

5. Try a Straw

Another way to try to swallow a pill is by using a straw. All you do is place the tablet on your tongue and then drink any type of liquid through a straw. 

The suction created from drinking through a straw can help guide the tablet down the throat, wash it down completely, and allow the reflex movement to suck up the liquid while sealing off the straw.

This method is a good distraction technique. Once the water is in your mouth, your body will take over and try to suck the pill down naturally. Try to take multiple sips to make sure that the tablet goes down!

A mason jar filled with water and a green straw

Tips for Making Swallowing Pills Easier

There are many reasons why pill swallowing can be difficult. Therefore, you want to be careful when you try it on your own. If you have a problem with swallowing pills, you will want to make sure that you are doing it safely. 

Don’t swallow a pill for the first time while you are alone or if you are not prepared to receive the Heimlich maneuver. 

Sometimes pill swallowing is necessary when you have to take prescriptions for your health or a supplement. 

If you are not getting the nutrients you need from your daily diet (which is true for most of us), or you have a specific vitamin deficiency, then you may need to have a daily vitamin and supplement routine to get all the nutrients you need to feel your best.

Luckily, with these techniques and a little practice, you may be able to overcome your fear of pill swallowing. This way, you can be sure to take the prescription pills you need or the supplements that will help you live your best life!

Beige pill and beige crushed pill on green background