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The Weird Science Discovery That Makes Your Meds Start Working Faster

The next time you take your medicine, you'll want to make sure you have the right posture for rapid absorption. The recommendation comes courtesy of groundbreaking research from the experts over at Johns Hopkins University. The study's findings, which have been published in the journal "Physics of Fluids," take a deep dive into how body posture affects the rate at which pills are absorbed in the gut and enter the bloodstream to provide relief.

The research combined the concepts of fluid mechanics with physics and biomechanics, creating a model called StomachSim to offer a realistic understanding of how medicine (in the form of pills) moves inside the gastrointestinal tract. The objective was clear – establish whether there's a link between body posture and the rate of medicine absorption. It is widely accepted that medicine starts working its magic in the body only after its chemical contents move from the stomach and into the intestines, which is where the absorption happens.

The closer it lands at the ending portion of the stomach (which is called the antrum) and then gets dumped into the starting portion of the small intestine (which is technically referred to as the duodenum), the faster its effects are seen on the body. This is particularly true for quick relief pills. The latest research studied four common body postures while taking medicines, and using the StomachSim simulation model, they ranked how fast medicine gets absorbed based on the stomach's position inside the body at the given time.

It was discovered that if a person is laying on their right side after popping a pill, it lands at the deepest part of the stomach and closest to the small intestine's opening. Compared to standing upright, lying down on your right side actually speeds up the process of medicine dissolution and uptake by 2.3 times, according to the study. So, if your headache pill takes 10 minutes to dissolve and move into the small intestine while lying on the right side, it would take 23 minutes to get the job done if you take it while standing upright.

If you are lying on your left side, which was classified as the worst posture, the medicine dissolution pathway is the slowest and it happens 10 times slower compared to the right-leaning posture. It might also come as a surprise that standing upright and lying on one's back turned out to be equally effective. The findings are of critical importance, especially for folks living with stomach ailments that slow down the process of medicine dissolution and absorption. 

The same goes for the elderly or people restricted to their beds with limited body movements. Stressing the importance of correct posture while ingesting medicines, the paper's lead author Rajat Mittal notes that "posture itself has such a huge impact, it's equivalent to somebody's stomach having a very significant dysfunction(s) as far as pill dissolution is concerned." The team is now planning to study the impact of body posture on food digestion.

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