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What Causes Hiccups And Treatment



Charles Osborne from Iowa began to hiccup in 1922 after a hog (that he was weighing) fell on top of him. He wasn’t cured for 68 long years and is thus listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest hiccup ever. Subsequently, in 2007, Jennifer Mee (who was later jailed for first-degree murder) from Florida hiccupped for FIVE straight weeks. She gained notoriety for hiccupping over 50 times per minute. Also, she holds the record for the most Frequent Hiccups. While this level of severity is extremely uncommon, most of us are no stranger to an occasional case of hiccups.

So What Causes Hiccups?

Cause Of Hiccups

There are many theories as to what exactly causes a round of hiccups. Some of these assumptions are discussed below:

  1. Doctors point out that a hiccup results from the undue stretching and expansion of the stomach. Inhalation of air or rapid eating/drinking is the stimulus that spreads the stomach walls. When the stomach is filled beyond its capacity, it pushes against the diaphragm above it. This causes the diaphragm to contract in an irregular, jerky manner. Consuming hot, spicy food can also produce synchronous diaphragmatic flutter.
  2. Exhaustion and malnourishment can also cause hiccups.
  3. Some scientists also explain hiccups as a reaction to intense emotions. Extreme feelings of excitement, anger, anxiety, stress, and happiness may stimulate hiccups. Actually, certain neural pathways originating in the brain and ending in the diaphragm can cause. That is why some emotional states and sudden temperature changes can produce hiccupping.
  4. Some medical conditions can also cause persistent or intractable hiccups. These are hiccups that last for over forty-eight hours and can extend to months. The most common condition that triggers hiccups is stomach acid moving into the esophagus. Sometimes neurological lesions involving the brain stem, irritation of the spinal cord and metabolic disorders can cause. Other known medical causes include
Causes Of Hiccups
Causes Of Hiccups
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Anorexia
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Stroke
  • Blows resulting in brain damage
  • Heart attack
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Irritation of the phrenic nerve
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Kidney failure
  • Certain types of infections

What Happens To The Body During A Hiccup?

Let’s discuss the physiological changes that take place when we hiccup.

  • The diaphragm contracts suddenly. It may be termed as an involuntary spasm of the
    diaphragm. Remember it is the large dome-shaped muscle below the lungs that are involved in breathing.
  • Secondly, the vocal cords close followed by the shutdown of the glottis.
  • The movement of the diaphragm pulls air inward, in a manner similar to inhalation. However, the closure of the glottis and the vocal cords stop the inhaled air from entering the windpipe. As a result, this air fails to enter the lungs. A characteristic sound is produced.
  • The heart also slows down during this process. This decrease in its rate of contraction is controlled by the Vagus nerve.

Function Of Hiccups

  • To this day, there is no known function of Hic. They provide no physiological or medical benefits to the person hiccuping. There is no logical explanation for this weird activity. Why would the body begin to inhale air only to stop it from entering the lungs? Anatomical structures or physiological pathways present challenges to evolutionary scientists. Do these serve some hidden purpose or are they just relics from the past? Did they serve a useful purpose in the past and are vestigial remnants today?
  • Another explanation is that hiccups began millions of years ago before the appearance of humans. The lungs evolved as a respiratory tool for early fish, many of which inhabited stagnant water. These organs were beneficial to them as they could make use of the abundant oxygen present in the air. When descendants of these marine animals moved to land, they brought a dual means of respiration with them. As evidence, study other animals in nature that have hiccup-like characters for example frogs. The tadpole breathes air through both the lungs and gills. When breathing air through the gills, a tadpole takes in water and closes its glottis. This stops the air from passing into the lungs. This is a mechanism similar to hiccups in humans.
  • There is different idea supported by gravity. It is that because humans walk upright, we have gravity to help us swallow food. But our four-legged ancestors didn’t have that. So scientists suggest that a stuck-up piece of meat in your throat could have pressed on a nerve and triggered a hiccup. Then, a sharp intake of air could have created a vacuum strong enough to assist the¬†swallowing of food.

Treating Hiccups

Treating Hiccups
Treating Hiccups

It can be annoying if they start at an unfavorable place or time. They can also irritate you sometimes. Here are some quick ways to get rid of a

Have A Friend Scare You

If you are having a regular bout of hiccups then one way of getting rid of them is if a friend startles or tickles you.

Gulping Down Water

Water is also effective for curing Hiccups. All you have to do is gulp down water in large sips.

Eat A Spoon Of Sugar

The effect of sugar in subsiding hiccups has less to do with its sweetness than its graininess. The grainy nature of sugar particles irritates the esophagus, causing the phrenic nerves to “reset” themselves.

Holding Your Breath

Holding your breath also proves fruitful in subsiding persistent hiccups. When you hold your breath, a vacuum is created in the trachea that helps clear out any stuck food particles or air currents.

Visit Your Doctor


In case you suffer from a persistent and incurable case of hiccups that simply refuses to go away, then you need to see your doctor as soon as possible. He will analyze whether it is a bout of hiccups or a complex underlying condition.

Raise Your Knees Toward Your Chest And Hug Them Hard

A body position found effective for curing hiccups is sitting down with raised knees. It actually relaxes the diaphragm and assists expulsion of trapped air.

Try Breathing Into A Paper Bag For Ten Seconds

This increases the carbon dioxide levels in your body which help stop hiccupping.


Hiccups are unwanted contractions of the diaphragm – the muscle that participates in breathing. Although evolutionary scientists have a few theories, the exact cause and purpose of hiccups is unknown. They remain a unique and age-old feature of the human physiology that continues to elude scientists to this day.

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