[Medication] How come we can eat hard foods like cookies, vegetables etc with no issue swallowing, but swallowing a pill is genuinely difficult for most of us?


Im currently taking vitamin extras, and i’ve noticed that swallowing the tablet itself takes me a couple of seconds of “mental preparation” before commiting to it, yet any other hard item can be swallowed with easy and no thought to it.

In: 4

Have you ever noticed that when you eat a cookie or vegetable, you chew it into a soft, moist paste before swallowing it?

Generally when you eat, you chew stuff into much smaller pieces. When taking a pill, you have to swallow it whole. If you were to only break your food in to pill-sizes chunks, you’d find it similarly difficult. The other factor is that pills are very dry, which adds to the difficulty. Food has usually got some moisture. So, if you really wanted to compare food and pills, you’d have to take some dry crackers, cut them into pieces the size of pills, and try and swallow them.

You’ll notice too that it will take you a couple seconds of mental preparation if you try to swallow food without chewing.

This is something I think about often, when you chew food you have a finely tuned technique of turning that mouthful into something called a “bolus” which is a pretty specific size/shape, it’s guided towards the back of your mouth with your tongue and then down your oesophagus by something called a peristaltic wave.
The whole system is a well oiled machine, it’s something you’ve been practising since you were in utero when you were learning how to swallow and strengthening those physical actions by swallowing amniotic fluid.
If something is ever out of place like the bolus or is too big, the whole system falls down, like if you’ve ever tried to swallow too much at once and felt that almost never ending pain in your throat, you’ll know!
A pill cannot be chewed which immediately disrupts those signals and the natural process you’ve been doing your whole life, it immediately becomes something you have to do consciously instead of an instinctive and unconscious process, swallowing anything without chewing is uncomfortable and unnatural.
Adding all that to the fact that like other people have mentioned pills are usually dry, they stick to the sides of your mouth and mean you have to consciously salivate to lubricate it and hope that it will not get stuck. You’re not just psyching yourself up to swallowing it, you’re overriding systems!
I once had a friend who hadn’t fully realised a pill has gotten stuck in his throat and out of the blue he coughed some white powder, I’ll be honest it was hilarious at the time, but ever since I’m scared of that happening to me so I always have to take pills with a drink.

I heard that (not a pharmacist here I can be wrong) pills are deliberately made to be bitter and painted in unappealing white or especially blue so that babies and small children won’t try to swallow them

Them being hard to swallow and even harder to chew could have something to do with this. Not certain.