Ask the docs: Tips to make medicine go down

King Features SyndicateJune 26, 2014 

Tall tales may be hard to swallow, but they're a lot easier than the five-at-once swords daredevil Dan Meyer eased down his esophagus in 2005 (they punctured his stomach) or the 30-inch sword he swallowed two years later - while submerged in a tank with 88 sharks and stingrays! But, believe it or not, for many people, swallowing medication is even more challenging.

Young or old, your inability to get a pill down the hatch may happen because you have a strong gag reflex; are dealing with a nerve disorder such as Parkinson's or stroke-related nerve damage; suffer from a food allergy, dementia, head or neck cancer; have esophageal problems (dysphagia); or have severe gastrointestinal reflux disorder (GERD). Or maybe anxiety is making swallowing difficult.

While we don't recommend Mary Poppins' solution (a spoonful of sugar) there are effective remedies.

If a disease is making it difficult to swallow your meds, you need the help of specialists. More simple solutions may include: changing the angle of your body, neck or head when you swallow; altering the size or texture of what you are trying to swallow; and practicing mindfulness to ease anxiety and relax your reflexes. To suppress your gag reflex, you can try taking a deep breath before putting the tablet in your mouth. But never break, crush or chew any medication without your doc's OK. With an OK, putting the meds into a smoothie or getting them in a yummy gummy formulation may help.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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