Taking Your Medication This Way Makes It Work Faster, Study Says

Doing this one thing with your cold medication will have you feeling better in no time.

When you're feeling under the weather with a cold, medicine can't work its magic fast enough. Thankfully, one study published in the journal Pharmaceutical Research says there's a simple way to get rapid relief from cold symptoms by helping your body absorb your medication faster. The study's research team—who specifically looked at how paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen) is absorbed in different formats—found that drinking your medication in the form of a hot beverage rather than swallowing a traditional tablet makes absorption "both significantly faster and greater" in the first 60 minutes post-dose. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this helpful discovery, and for more tips on mastering your medication, If You're Taking This OTC Medicine More Than Twice a Week, See a Doctor.

To collect their data, the researchers enlisted 25 healthy male volunteers to take medication both traditionally and in a warm drink. Using both scintigraphic imaging and blood tests, they determined how quickly the body absorbed paracetamol from tablets versus hot drink sachets with the same 1,000 mg dosage of medicine. They found that when it was administered in the form of a hot beverage—specifically Beechams Flu Plus Hot Lemon Sachets—"paracetamol from a hot drink was absorbed more quickly than historically seen with a solid dose formulation."

The team explained that the body absorbs medication faster via hot drinks because they allow for faster gastric emptying. "Absorption of paracetamol from the stomach is negligible but is rapid and significant from the small intestine, making rapid gastric emptying a key approach to reducing the delay between drug ingestion and onset of symptom control," the researchers explained. In other words, the sooner the medication makes its way to the small intestines, the sooner it can enter the bloodstream and begin to ease your discomfort.

The temperature of the beverage also contributes to the speed with which it enters the bloodstream because it helps break down the medicine itself. The team explained that because paracetamol is more soluble in hot water but "only sparingly soluble in cold water," they believe that drinking paracetamol in the form of a hot drink will "negate the requirement for prior disintegration and dissolution of conventional tablets." By cutting out the added work of breaking down your pills, you'll likely see an improvement to your symptoms sooner. Wondering which beverages you should avoid when you're on medication? Read on to find out which beverage types interfere with the absorption of meds, and for more medical tips, Dr. Fauci Just Said Don't Take This Medication With the COVID Vaccine.


Old style bottle of milk sitting on wood table shot from slightly above with selective focus.
hutch photography / Shutterstock

According to a study published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics, mixing your meds with milk can have a series of surprising effects including "decreased bioavailability of drugs, increase/decrease the excretion of drugs, depletion of absorption of nutrients, among others."

The main issue that doctors caution about is milk's ability to lower medicine absorption levels when mixed with certain types of drugs. "The milk interferes with the absorption of various antibiotics," including "tetracyclines, quinolones, propranolol, mercaptopurine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, digitalis, amiloride, omeprazole, spironolactone and ranitidine," the study reads. And for the latest health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.


Tea and milk

If a morning cup of joe is a part of your daily routine, chances are you've already made the mistake if mixing caffeine with a prescription on one occasion or another. But one study published in the journal BioMed Research International shows that doing so can affect the absorption of drugs by "changing the dissolution profile, changing the gastrointestinal (GI) pH…affecting the GI emptying time," and more.

Caffeine is also known to reduce the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, including iron. "The intestinal absorption of both inorganic and organic compounds could be decreased by coffee. For instance, about 39 to 90 percent of iron absorption is reduced when a cup of coffee as well as other caffeinated beverages is taken with an iron rich meal," the same study said. And for more tips for staying in top health, The More You Use This Common Medication, the Less it Works.


skynesher / iStock

We all know that drinking alcohol can make for a dangerous combination with prescription drugs, but fewer people realize that a cocktail or two can get in the way of your body absorbing your meds properly. To make matters worse, the results are unpredictable—in some cases, alcohol can make you absorb too much and in other cases, too little.

Grapefruit Juice

Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit Juice (close-up shot) on vintage wooden background

While grapefruit juice may, in fact, help your body absorb certain types of medication—in particular cholesterol-lowering statins, blood pressure medications, and selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—experts say it can cause serious unintended consequences.

"The drugs in many pills that you swallow get broken down in your intestines by an enzyme called CYP3A before they enter your bloodstream," explain experts from Harvard Health. "That breakdown reduces the absorption of certain drugs. But grapefruit juice contains compounds called furanocoumarins that stop CYP3A from doing its job. As a result, more of the drug is absorbed, making it more powerful than it's meant to be, even toxic in some cases." And for more medical mistakes you can't afford to keep making, If You're Swallowing Your Medication With This, Stop Immediately.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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