When taking your pills, they start a long and complicated journey to your stomach, through your twisted intestine, to your bloodstream.
But its absorption may be hindered — to the point where the stomach may take an hour longer to dissolve oral medications — depending on your situation. and .... depending on your position?
This is the finding of a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University that simulated how tablets dissolve in the human stomach and release them in the intestine.
They found that the ideal position for the fastest absorption was not sitting upright, but leaning to your right.
“We were very surprised that the situation had such a huge impact on the rate of disc dissolution,” says Rajat Mittal, a computer scientist who studies fluid dynamics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. It definitely vary every time I take a pill."
Oral medications are absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestines, and are less rapid but more convenient than injected medications. To get there, it must first pass through the stomach and the gate, a valve that opens and closes during digestion.
While you might not be concerned about how quickly your body absorbs vitamin supplements, the absorption of the medications has serious implications for how quickly pain relievers work or how stable the medications are in blood pressure — not to mention finding the right dose for women as opposed to men.
So Mittal and colleagues tested four positions using their computer model of the human stomach, which was based on high-resolution body scans of a 34-year-old man.
The model, called "StomachSim" simulates the movement of fluids and the biomechanics of the tablets through the digestive system and how quickly they are expelled from the stomach into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine where nutrient absorption begins.
Taking the tablets while bending to the right side or lying down means that the drugs slipped into the deepest part of the stomach and "dissolved" twice as fast as the tablets taken in an upright position.
"For people who are elderly, sedentary or bedridden, whether they are leaning to the left or the right can have a huge impact," Mittal explains.
Previous studies similarly found that lying on the right side speeds up the rate at which the stomach empties food into the intestines, and that sitting, standing, or leaning on the right also speeds up the absorption of oral medications.
To take it one step further, the researchers simulated what happens to tablet absorption if someone suffers from a condition called gastroparesis, in which damaged nerves or weak stomach muscles stop or slow down the stomach from emptying its contents properly.
They found that even a slight decrease in the stomach's simulated digestive power led to marked differences in how quickly it digested and expelled tablets in the duodenum - similar to changes in posture.
"Despite these and other limitations, we have shown that computational and simulation models of gastric fluid mechanics can provide useful and unique insights into the complex physiological processes that underlie drug dissolution," the team wrote.
And the way our bodies process drugs can be somewhat out of our control, thanks to our genes.
Publication date: 19.08.2022 : Source News: Science Alert from "the Journal of Fluid".