Why Do We Hiccup?

Hiccups are funny, but they can also be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Sometimes, these hiccups go on for an elongated period of time and this could be an indication of a serious underlying condition. While we know what they are, what they feel like and even have tips on how to relieve them, we still don’t understand what they actually do to the body or where they come from.

What Is Hiccup?

Your diaphragm is the culprit. The diaphragm is shaped as a dome and located at the bottom of the chest which is where hiccups develop. This organ pulls down air and directs it into the lungs when you inhale, and then flow it out when you exhale. The diaphragm sometimes gets irritated and begins to have jerky movements, which lead to air getting sucked into the throat. When this happens, the air rushes into your voice box, leading to the hiccups you experience.

Funny Facts—Do You Know?

  • Men tend to experience more hiccups than women and children are also more likely to have hiccups than adults.
  • The longest hiccups ever to be recorded in the Guinness Book of world records lasted for 68 years.
  • Babies begin to hiccup before birth and the expectant mother will experience an odd feeling.
  • Indians believe that hiccups are a sign of a family member thinking about you.
  • Another superstition about hiccups is that they come about when someone is discussing you.
  • Animals also get hiccups. Any living being with a diaphragm can get hiccups.

What Can Cause Hiccups?

1.    Causes of Short-Term Hiccups

Every one of us has experienced this type of hiccups and this shouldn’t worry you. Most short-term hiccups occur due to varying reasons such as sudden room temperature changes, sudden temperature changes inside the stomach, a bloated stomach as well as excessive drinking or smoking. Short-term hiccups can also occur when under stress, in shock or even excited.

2.    Causes of Long-Lasting Hiccups

Long-lasting hiccups are rare and these tend to be persistent occurring over and over again. This type of hiccups could be caused by an underlying condition like gastro-oesophagael reflux disease (GORD). Even after undergoing medical tests, the underlying condition may remain unidentified.

Some of the possible causes of long-lasting hiccups are:

  • ŸGastrointestinal conditions. Conditions suchas small bowel obstruction, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and GORD as mentioned earlier.
  • ŸVagus nerve irritation. Condition such as meningitis, pharyngitis and goiter have been known to irritate nerve signals in the body.
  • ŸRespiratory conditions. Pneumonia, asthma and pleurisy are all possible causes.
  • ŸCentral nervous system conditions. This could be anything from a traumatic head injury to a brain tumor, stroke or encephalitis.
  • ŸPsychological reactions. Hiccups can be caused by anxiety, fear, shock, stress and other psychological reactions.
  • ŸMetabolic conditions. These are conditions that affect the digestive process and include diabetes, hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia.

3.    Medication

Certain medications have been known to cause hiccups. Anesthesia drugs which are used to numb the body before a surgical or medical procedure are one kind of them. Opioids such as methadone and morphine may also cause hiccups. Other medications on this list include methyldopa which is used to treat hypertension, barbiturate used to control seizures, benzodiazepines used to control anxiety and corticosteroidswhich are an anti-inflammatory medication.

When to See a Doctor

If your hiccups last for more than 48 hours, you should visit a doctor. The doctor will go through your medical history and conduct a physical examination to identify the cause of your hiccups.

How to Get Rid of Hiccups

We all have our different hiccup remedies and the list below highlights some that you might want to try out.

  • Try sugar. Sugar overloads your mouth’s nerve endings and you can place some at the back of the tongue.
  • ŸClose your ears. Some doctors say that blocking your ears with your fingers could stop hiccups. This stimulates the nerve endings and vagus nerve as well.
  • ŸSurprise. If someone close to you is having hiccups, you can overwhelm their vagus nerve by surprising them.
  • ŸDrink water. Gargling or swallowing water could interrupt the hiccups and relax the nerves.
  • ŸStick out your tongue. Sticking out your tongue is a popular hiccups remedy that you can try.
  • ŸTickle. A good tickle has been known to help end a bout of hiccups.
  • ŸIncrease carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. This sounds complicated, but all you need to do is to breath into a paper bag. This tricks the body into clearing the influx of carbon dioxide, forgetting about the hiccups.
  • ŸHold your breath. Hold your breath until you feel the hiccups disappear or for as long as possible.
  • ŸEat slowly. Eating slowly reduces the amount of air that is trapped inside your digestive tract. Ingesting a lot of air could irritate the vagus nerve.
  • ŸTake anti-acid medication. Antacids with magnesium help to calm the hiccups by decreasing irritation in the diaphragm.
  • ŸAvoid spices. There are spices that irritate the stomach leading to acidity within the esophagus. Extra acid in your esophagus could lead to hiccups.
  • ŸAvoid overeating. The amounts of food that you eat are equally important. Experts suggest that hiccups could be a sign of overworking your digestive system.

Here is a video to help you get more ways to get rid of hiccup: