When you’re not feeling your best, you want speedy relief. And while prescription and over-the-counter medications can help, they sometimes take hours to fully kick in. For the 66% of adults in the US who take prescription meds, that can mean extra time spent dealing with discomfort. And for those of us going through the trouble to schedule appointments for routine vaccines and boosters, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your shots. Fortunately, these science-backed strategies make medication work faster and vaccines work better. The result: A healthier, happier you!
To help pills absorb faster, lie on your right side
Grab a good book or magazine and lie on your right side for 10 minutes after taking any pill. Johns Hopkins scientists say this simple trick helps you absorb it up to 230% faster. Their study in the journal Physics of Fluids found that the side-reclining position puts the exit of your stomach (duodenum) at its lowest possible position. This allows gravity to quickly pull the pills out of this “waiting room” and into the intestines where they can be absorbed into the bloodstream within 10 minutes. That’s compared to about 100 minutes if you were lying on your left side. Not somewhere that you can lie down? Standing up straight comes a close second, with pills absorbing in 23 minutes.
To make migraine meds more effective, take them with coffee
Suffer from migraines, but your meds aren’t quite cutting it? Take your preferred pain reliever with a cup of coffee or tea. According to a study published in the journal JAMA, the combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine was the most effective at reducing headaches in folks. Caffeine works in two ways: It ushers NSAIDs (like aspirin or Aleve) and acetaminophen-powered products (like Tylenol) quickly into the bloodstream. Plus, it blocks receptors in your body responsible for perceiving pain. (Click through to see if iced coffee or cold brew is better for you.)
To power up painkillers, give your meds a ‘warrior name’
Giving your go-to painkiller extra power can be as simple as renaming it. Try taping a label reading “Pain Crusher” on your generic NSAID bottle or “Acid Killer” on your OTC heartburn pills. Harvard University research published in Science Translational Medicine suggests half a drug’s power comes from simply thinking it’ll work! And seeing a name that calls out its most powerful properties kickstarts a “placebo response.” This is when your brain convinces your body that the treatment is extra potent, triggering neural networks that calm pain signaling.
To boost your vaccine response, try these 5 tricks
Whether you’re getting your annual flu shot, a COVID vaccine or shingles booster, these tricks make it easy to increase the effectiveness of any vaccination. Read on to discover the simple ways to make your shot even more potent.
1. Munch on Brazil nuts in the weeks before your shot
Boosting levels of selenium, a mineral that’s crucial for healthy immune function, may prime your body for a better vaccine response. In one study in the Caspian Journal of Clinical Medicine, researchers found taking 200 mcg. of selenium for 30 days made participants’ vaccinations 53% more likely to be protective. A tasty way to get the study-backed dose: Snack on two selenium-rich Brazil nuts each day. (Click through to see how selenium-rich Brazil nuts ward off memory loss.)
2. Catch more Zzzs before and after your vaccine
Permission to sleep in. University of Chicago research found folks who clock at least 6 hours of sleep in the days before and after getting a vaccination or booster shot had up to twice the protective antibodies as someone who slept less than 6 hours. The study authors found “cushioning” your shot with a little extra sleep boosts your body’s ability to develop antibodies to viruses (including against flu, COVID, hepatitis and shingles) so effectively, you’ll get as much as 2 extra months of immunity. (Click through to learn more ways to bolster your immunity.)
Trouble dozing off? For a sound-sleep assist, take 3 mg. of melatonin about an hour before bedtime. A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health found that supplementing with this sleep-enhancing hormone helps you catch up to 20 more minutes of slumber a night. And as University of Toronto investigators point out, melatonin improves the body’s response to vaccines by increasing activity of antibody-producing cells. (Click through to discover why you should consider melatonin pills instead of gummies for sound sleep.)
3. Schedule a morning appointment whenever possible
Morning appointments may not always be available, but if you can get one, it may give you an edge. Research conducted at University of Birmingham found that people who received vaccines in the morning produced up to four times more antibodies compared to others who were vaccinated later in the day. Experts explain that the benefit may be due to higher AM levels of hormones that optimize immune response.
Tip: Doing arm curls while you’re waiting in line to get a vaccine can reduce post-injection pain by 53%, findings from the University of Sydney suggest. Researchers explain that exercising muscles helps to disperse antigens produced in response to vaccines. Antigens can cause painful side-effects when they build up at injection sites. (Arm curls do more than just block pain. They tone and sculpt, too! Click through to see the best arm workouts for women over 50.)
4. Cue up a silly animal video before your vaccination
Boost your mood by chatting with a friend who makes you chuckle or watching something smile-worthy on YouTube on the day you get vaccinated. Enjoying a good chuckle could enhance your body’s response to the shot. In a study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, people who reported being in a good mood the day they got a flu vaccine were 66% more likely to produce antibodies 16 weeks later than those who felt less positive. Experts say an upbeat outlook enhances activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which has been shown to optimize immune function. (Click through to see the hilarious animal photos that are sure to make you giggle.)
5. Walk through the mall post-vaccination
Walk through the mall or putter around the house right after getting a vaccine or booster shot. This simple bout of movement may improve your body’s ability to produce protective antibodies, suggests Iowa State University research. Scientists suspect that getting 90 minutes of movement helps your body circulate immune cells. This significantly improves their ability to detect the vaccine and bump up an immune response.
The findings fall in line with related research in Sports Medicine. The study found that people who regularly pack movement into their day are 50% more likely than less active folks to develop high levels of antibodies after being vaccinated. (Click through to see how daily walks help you lose weight.)
Read on for more vaccine news:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.