Hiccups are a common and often amusing problem that generally last for just a few minutes. They are caused by temporary muscle contractions of the diaphragm. It is important to understand the functioning of the diaphragm in order to understand the root cause of hiccups. The diaphragm is a section of muscle tissue that expands and contracts to facilitate breathing. The diaphragm contracts to create a suction and this draws air into the lungs. When it expands, air is pushed out from the lungs causing the individual to exhale.
Thus the regular contraction and expansion of the diaphragm allows us to breathe normally. Unlike most of the muscles in our body which function on either a voluntary or involuntary basis, the diaphragm falls under both categories. While you are asleep or even when you are awake and not concentrating on your breathing, your diaphragm continues to contract and relax. However, if you wish to hold your breath for a while, you will be able to do voluntarily control these muscles. This duality is the key to determining the cause and cure for hiccups.
Symptoms of Hiccups
The telltale hic sound is one of the most obvious signs of hiccups. This sound is the result of air rushing into your lungs as your diaphragm contracts suddenly. While it is possible to smother the sound, it does not help to cure your hiccups. Hiccups also cause a sudden jerking movement of the shoulders and torso. If the diaphragm contractions are severe, an individual may even experience pain in the throat or chest along with each hiccup. Under normal circumstances, you can use home remedies for hiccups but you need to seek immediate medical attention if your hiccups last for hours or if you spit up blood at any point.
Causes of Hiccups
Hiccups can be either temporary or chronic and each type has a different set of possible causes. Temporary hiccups are generally associated with dietary choices such as spicy foods and dry foods and so these foods will have to be completely avoided as part of any home treatment for hiccups. It can also be caused by overeating or an alcoholic binge. Some people get hiccups from carbonated drinks or a sudden change in temperature while some may get hiccups simply from laughing too hard. Individuals undergoing chemotherapy may also be prone to hiccups. Hiccups after surgery is a common problem and can be traced to the general anesthesia that is administered. It is best to ask your doctor how to get rid of hiccups after surgery as you may not be able to consume any food as part of your post op procedures.
Temporary hiccups may not be a cause for concern, but chronic hiccups could suggest a more serious underlying problem. These are some of the causes for chronic hiccups:
- A brain tumor, certain metabolic diseases, and kidney failure can sometimes cause chronic hiccups.
- Diabetes and pneumonia patients may also experience frequent bouts of hiccups.
- An accident that involves injury to the brain can also cause chronic hiccups.
- The vagus nerve is responsible for the proper functioning of various muscles and so any damage to this nerve could result in chronic hiccups.
- Furthermore, since the vagus nerve runs through a portion of the ear, it is also possible that any irritation of the inner ear can cause hiccups.
- The vagus nerve is closely linked to various cardiac functions and so a malfunctioning pacemaker could cause hiccups in some individuals.
Chronic hiccups should never be ignored as they are generally associated with serious health conditions. There is no need for unnecessary anxiety as there are also common conditions such as a sore throat or GERD that may be the root cause of the problem, but visit your doctor for a thorough checkup and an accurate diagnosis. If the root cause of the problem cannot be identified, your doctor may request a chest X-ray and/or an ECG to rule out cardiac or chest problems.
Home Remedies for Hiccups
There are several home remedies for hiccups and while some of them are very successful, you may need to try more than one to find the remedy that suits you.
- Have a spoon of granulated sugar and allow it to dissolve slowly without chewing it. This home remedy for hiccups is especially suitable for toddlers and small children who are unable to follow detailed instructions on breathing patterns.
- Add a tablespoon of salt to a cup of yogurt and mix it thoroughly until the salt dissolves completely. Have the yogurt slowly and you will find that your hiccups cease with just a few spoons.
- Cardamom powder is also an effective remedy for hiccups. You will need to add a teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom powder to a pan with 1 ½ cups of water and bring the water to a boil over low heat. Allow this liquid to cool and then strain the liquid and drink it while it is still cool. This remedy helps the muscles of the diaphragm to relax and this will stop your hiccups. This is considered by many to be the best way to end alcoholic hiccups as it also helps to flush ones system of the excess alcohol.
- Clean and peel a small piece of fresh ginger and chew on it slowly to get rid of your hiccups. This home treatment for hiccups may taste a little unpleasant but it is very effective.
- A spoon of peanut butter could help to stop hiccups and this is a great remedy for hiccups in children as kids hesitate to eat unfamiliar foods. This is also one of the best home remedies for continuous hiccups.
In addition to these home remedies to get rid of hiccups, there are also several other cures for hiccups that may help you deal with this problem. These cures are based on actions that help to get rid of the muscle spasms of your diaphragm.
- Draw in a deep breath and try to hold it for as long as possible. This action will help to stretch the diaphragm muscles and prevent it from contracting until you exhale. This often helps to get rid of hiccups although you may need to repeat this procedure a couple of times.
- Sing loudly as singing requires you to unconsciously control your breathing which will help to get rid of the hiccups.
- Inhale deeply and then double up and push down on your stomach. Stay in this position for a few seconds and then exhale slowly. Repeat this at least three times and you will find that your hiccups have disappeared.
- One of the simplest methods to get rid of persistent hiccups is to laugh loudly. Read your favorite comic strip or watch a funny video to laugh away your hiccups!
Diet for Hiccups
There is no specific diet plan for hiccups as this condition generally only lasts for 5 to 10 minutes. However, there are several foods that you should avoid when you have hiccups as they could aggravate the problem. Avoid all carbonated drinks especially colas as the carbon dioxide would cause gas and belching which could make your hiccups worse. Spicy foods cause changes in your breathing patterns and so they should be avoided as far as possible until your hiccups have completely stopped. You can use herbs and flavorful foods instead of spices to increase the palatability of your meal. It is best to have bland foods like rice, mashed potatoes, steamed chicken, vegetables, and fruits. A bowl of minestrone or a small serving of yogurt salad would also be good options. Make sure that all your vegetables and fruits are chopped into small pieces as this will reduce the chances of choking as you hiccup. Avoid dry foods like sliced bread and pita as these are difficult to swallow and can make your hiccups worse. Avoid all alcoholic beverages including wine as alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of experiencing hiccups. Eat carefully as a sudden hiccup can cause your food to go down your windpipe instead of your esophagus. Have small meals as this will reduce the risk of gas which could increase the severity of the hiccups.
Suggestion for Hiccups
Drinking a glass of very warm water is a simple and effective cure for hiccups. The warmth from the water will cause your diaphragm to relax and this will cure your hiccups. You can also ask your doctor for diet tips for hiccups as this could help to ease your discomfort during this time. If you experience headaches, vomiting and hiccups, you will need immediate medical attention as these symptoms are associated with serious health conditions such as a brain tumor and various types of kidney disease. Hiccups in infants and toddlers are a very common problem and are not really a cause for concern but it would be wise to keep your pediatrician informed if the hiccups are persistent.
- Michael Fetter, Christopher Kennard, Chapter 18 - Hiccup, In: Thomas Brandt, Louis R. Caplan, Johannes Dichgans, H. Christoph Diener and Christopher Kennard, Editor(s), Neurological Disorders (Second Edition), Academic
- Press, San Diego, 2003, Pages 185-189, ISBN 9780121258313, 10.1016/B978-012125831-3/50213-6.
Hiccups - Frequently asked questions
42 Hiccups remedies suggested by our users
suggested by kim on Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Sugar and Vinegar
suggested by Tia on Friday, June 13, 2008
suggested by [unspecified] on Monday, June 9, 2008
Shot of water
suggested by Mark on Saturday, June 7, 2008
Hiccups Treatments. More...