Hiccups, sometimes spelt hiccoughs, are a sudden and involuntary contraction of the diaphragm muscle, which is located between the chest and abdominal cavity and separates them from each other. When hiccups start, the diaphragm muscle contracts repetitively.
Since, most of the time, hiccups go away on their own, they are not categorised as a serious medical problems. However, they can be embarrassing especially if they start at the wrong time and wrong place.
Hiccups are often caused by unintentionally swallowing air while eating or chewing gum.
On the other hand, sometimes, hiccups can occur as a symptom of various diseases such as nervous system disorders, pneumonia, heart attack, stomach ailments and oesophagus obstruction.
Every one of us knows what hiccups are but no one knows what the exact cause or causes of hiccups.
What Are Hiccups?
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, hiccups occur by a sudden contraction of the diaphragm muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavity. When this contraction happens, the diaphragm suddenly causes excess air to enter. To prevent this excess and sudden intake of air, the windpipe closes the larynx entrance. As a result of this abrupt closure of the larynx in the region of vocal cords produces, the “hic” sound happens.
People of all ages can encounter this short-lived ailment at some point. Surprisingly, a baby too can have hiccups inside the womb.
On average, a person has hiccups between 6 to 12 times within a minute. Thereafter, hiccups go away on their own generally after a couple of minutes.
What Causes Hiccups?
As indicated earlier in the article, no one knows what exactly causes hiccups, even though there are several factors that are associated to bring about hiccups.
In general, swallowing air unwittingly, eating too much, carbonated drinks, alcohol abuse and sudden temperature change in the digestive organs are known to bring about hiccups.
Furthermore, hiccups can stem from psychological sources according to doctors. For instance; excitement, fear, stress or sudden emotional fluctuations seems to be the culprits for hiccups.
What we consume can also trigger hiccups. Spicy foods, carbonated drinks, and alcohol can be blamed for hiccups. Aside from what we eat, how we eat may also trigger hiccups.
Eating hot foods or drinking hot beverages and eating too quickly are thought to be the reasons for hiccups.
Hiccups can be seen due to the presence of a tumour, trauma, meningitis, cardiovascular diseases and after general anaesthesia.
Pneumonia, liver, intestinal and pancreatic diseases are among the risk factors for hiccups. What’s more, in rare cases, persistent hiccups can emerge as a symptom of a heart attack.
At the outset, it is important to emphasise that if hiccups continue for more than 2 days, it can be a sign of a serious medical condition. Under the normal circumstances, as we all know, hiccups go away on their own without requiring treatment.
However, persistent hiccups must be addressed by a physician. Persistent hiccups can interfere with daily activities and reduce individuals’ life quality.
As for the treatment of hiccups, there are home remedies but none of them has been proven by scientific studies as the exact remedy for hiccups by doctors. Nevertheless, they are worth trying during hiccup attacks.
Even though no one including doctors does not know whether the following remedies will 100% work, at least we know that they don’t cause harm and became the remedy for some people.
According to NHS: this technique might work. The important point here is not to use a plastic bag since it may cause harm. Take a paper bag and place your mouth and nose in it just as in the photo ( do not put your entire head in it ). Then slowly inflate and deflate the bag for a while.
This method might work in two ways. You can lie flat and bring your knees to your chest, as is seen in the picture, and wait in that position for 2 to 3 minutes.
Secondly, sit on a comfortable floor and pull your knees to your chest and try to lean forward to your knees and again wait for 2 to 3 minutes.
Hold Your Breath
Inhale a handsome amount of water and hold your breath for about 15 seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat it 4 to 5 times. This method might work.
Another method used against hiccups attack is to sip cold water. Let’s not forget, that drinking ice-cold water slowly rather than all in one breath may bring the best result. Drinking slowly can stimulate the vagus nerve which is related to the diaphragm muscle.
Lemon or Vinegar
Actually, there is no scientific proof for this one to work. However, there are many people who say who solved their hiccups problem by biting a piece of lemon or consuming a teaspoon of vinegar.
At the core of this method, is the sour taste of these foods lies. The sour taste can stimulate the nerves which are the reasons for contraction.
Just above, the sour taste was the remedy, this time the situation is vice versa. Swallowing sugar ( granulated ) after holding it in the mouth until it dissolves can be the way to stifle the hiccups. A pinch of sugar would be sufficient.
Tarkan is an experienced health writer ( currently more than 600 articles ) and also the founder of this website namely www.neededforhealth.com. His expertise in health stems from in-depth medical research and knowledge which he obtained over the course of many years.
Tarkan enjoys sharing factual knowledge on health, psychology and nutrition. He always aims to deliver evidence-based recommendations, provide links to related scientific studies.