(NEXSTAR) – Whether you’re sitting, standing, or lying back can impact how quickly pills start working in your body, a recent study by Johns Hopkins University researchers found.
The study, published in the Physics of Fluids journal, created a simulation of the human stomach, then tested what would happen when you take a pill in four different postures: sitting/standing upright, lying back, lying on the right side or lying on the left side.
There was a clear winner. Taking a pill while lying down on the right side allowed pills to dissolve 2.3 times faster than when sitting upright.
There was a clear loser, too. “The team was very surprised to find that if a pill takes 10 minutes to dissolve on the right side, it could take 23 minutes to dissolve in an upright posture and over 100 minutes when laying on the left side,” explains a summary of the study posted on the university’s website.
The dramatic difference even caught the study’s author off guard.
“We were very surprised that posture had such an immense effect on the dissolution rate of a pill,” said Johns Hopkins engineer Rajat Mittal. “I 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.”
Dr. Kevin Most, chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine’s Central DuPage Hospital, said in an interview with WGN Radio that it makes sense if you think about the human anatomy.
“Logic would tell you the stomach, as we swallow, it will swallow down the esophagus, the esophagus goes into the stomach, and then the stomach empties onto the right side into the small intestine,” Most said. Because a pill doesn’t start working until its contents make their way into the intestine, the research found lying on the right side was the quickest way for medicine to be absorbed.
The study doesn’t claim that drugs work better if you take them while lying on the right side, only that they work quicker. Still, it’s a meaningful finding that people and healthcare providers can implement easily and immediately.
“It’s certainly going to be impactful on individuals who need a quick release of that medication,” said Most. “In other words, if I’m taking a medicine for anxiety because I’m very anxious right now, I want that medicine to work as quickly as possible. Or if I’m in severe pain, I want that to work quickly.”
“For elderly, sedentary or bedridden people, whether they’re turning to left or to the right can have a huge impact,” Mittal agreed.
It’s less important for chronic medications like cholesterol medicine that you might take daily, Most explained.
You can listen to the whole interview with Dr. Most below.
The findings of this study don’t have any impact on whether your stomach should be empty or full when you take medications, Most said. You should still follow the instructions given to you by your doctor or pharmacist when it comes to taking pills with food or without, at night or in the morning, or making any other changes.