Why Do We Hiccup And How Can You Stop Them?

holding breath

These bad boys can be extremely annoying and come on at some very inconvenient times, but what exactly triggers them?

Hiccups are an involuntary activity of the diaphragm. The muscles used when you breath are the intercostal muscles located in the spaces between the ribs. Two things occur in rapid succession: first there is a quick and involuntary inhalation of air and second as the muscle contracts, the glottis (space between your vocal cords at the top of the larynx) quickly slams shuts which is what makes the “hic” sound.

Science doesn’t even know what the purpose is and there is no obvious function. This isn’t to say there is no definite function, but more so to say it hasn’t been discovered yet if there is one. Perhaps it is a remnant of some evolutionary function that is no longer needed in humans but still lingers. Maybe it is something that we need for development in our bodies when we’re young (fetuses hiccup in the womb after the 8th week from conception) but isn’t necessary later in life as we get older. Children tend to hiccup more often and in fact the chances to trigger this phenomenon declines with age.

One thing is that it is actually possible to hiccup for longer than most of us think. Imagine hiccuping for an entire day non stop? What about a week or even a month?! I remember a while ago when watching TV, there was a show talking about a man who’s be hiccuping for 68 YEARS straight. This poor man apparently hiccuped around 40 times a minute. Now that is tough.

So what on earth actually causes this series of actions to occur? There are a number of theories on why we hiccup with a few of the leading ideas listed below.

Drinking or eating too fast

This is probably the most common trigger. You are so pumped to gulp down that tasty beverage or food you’ve been thinking about all day that you can’t help but chug the sustenance as if there would be nothing left on earth in 10 seconds. You can also swallow air in addition to the intended “payload” to be delivered into the put of your belly. The stomach becomes distended and irritated. The diaphragm ends up contracting like it does when breathing.

Drinking or eating too much

This is especially true with fatty foods or of course drinking alcohol because you feel the need to consume ridiculous amounts proving to everyone how “awesome” you are. Same as above this is an action that can irritate the diaphragm.

Disturbance to the nerve pathways from the brain

Sometimes hiccups can be brought on by temperature changes or emotional situations. On the other hand this is also the reason why an abrupt shock can sometimes “cure” the attack.

A sign of disease or illness

Normally hiccups are just minor annoyances but persistent hiccups can be a sign of disease. Sources suggest that they can be brought on by many ailments including: brain trauma,  spinal cord integrity, infections, lesions, central nervous system conditions, metabolic disorders, peptic ulcers and even anesthesia.

cover mouth guy

So how can I get rid of these buggers once I start hiccuping?

  • Hold your breath (This is the one I use and it almost always works)
  • Breathing into a paper bag
  • Drink a glass of water quickly
  • Get scared or surprised abruptly

Some odd potential cures I’ve heard but have no idea on the validity of them:

  • Swallow a teaspoon of sugar
  • Sip on some lemon juice
  • Put your fingers in your ears to block the canals
  • Use smelling salts
  • Pull hard on your tongue

Conclusion

Even though you might be excited for that special drink or that meal you’ve been craving, take some time and eat slow! Also don’t overload yourself just because it tastes awesome. Try and do your best to drink in moderation.

Chances are those pesky hiccups are in fact going to show up from time to time and you can’t really avoid it until it’s too late but when they do my top 3 suggestions would be to hold your breath, drink a glass of water fast or if you happen to have one laying around you: breathe into a paper bag. If you’re like me you might not think much of the evil hiccups, but when they kick in it’s usually at the most inopportune time and you’re frantically trying to get rid of them!

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Comments

  1. Jake Smith says:

    Just do a nice long loud good big burp to get rid of the hiccups!

  2. These are pretty good, but if you get chronic hiccups, a better solution is to hold your breath while pinching your nose, and drink a lot of water. It simulates drowning, and gets rid of all but the most severe chronic hiccups for most people. Try it!

    • Whoops. I forgot to say that you should blow all the air out of your lungs first. Without it, it can still cure hiccups, but getting rid of the air is necessary for most chronic cases.

  3. I HATE hiccups – they make me feel sick and annoy the heck out of me!

  4. Nice article, I tried all those tricks you mentioned and those are usefull

  5. This is a weird one but it seems to work for me…drinking from the opposite side of a glass. It’s messy so it needs to be done over a sink.

  6. Hiccup cure that works for me every time: put your fingers in your ears and keep drinking. Its a good idea to use a straw else someone else will have to do it for you.

  7. As you noted, hiccups are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. Other muscles in your body can have similar involuntary spasms, usually caused by fatigue triggered by overuse or unusual use (ask a bodybuilder). Chances are hiccups are triggered by the irregular breathing patterns caused by rapid eating and drinking in the same way. It might mean that you need some exercise that gets your lungs working, to get that diaphragm muscle into better shape. And yes, eat and drink more slowly next time!

  8. Teaspoon of sugar always works here….but you must let it dissolve slowly. Guess it’s the same as holding your breath but nicer.

  9. I take several small sips of water while holding my breath. Then, without releasing, I take in a another diaphragm-expanding breath and repeat the sip intake. It works like a charm.

  10. I so often have the hiccups! bah! I like your blogs!
    Lisa

  11. Here is a silly one: ask someone to rub your back in circular motions until your back is warm. I heard it when I was visiting a friend who was from a very traditional Peranakan Chinese family. :D

  12. A heaping teaspoonful of granulated suger works every time for me.

  13. Great post! Sounds like we can’t help but get them… and there’s not really a one size fits all wonder cure ahh… I think I have hiccuphobia now

  14. My cure, which I’ve used all my life (and even my daughter will vouch for it), is to sip water and swallow it slowly with the head looking down. I never realized this but it appears to be the same position as when you sip water from the opposite side of a glass. Just less messy.

    To repeat: take a sip of water, bend your head down, and swallow slowly. Repeat until cured.

  15. pulling on your tongue?!? hilarious. Now I can’t wait for a bout in order to try that!

  16. The cure that always worked for me, was drinking ‘whatever’, but with really small repeated consecutive swallows. Take a glass of water and empty it in one run with 200 swallows. Works guaranteed.

  17. Oh my goodness, I am sure this post can save lives. I have but one fear in the world, apart from that I am fearless like a tiger, but this fear is getting hiccups for 10 years. I would literally rather cut my arm off and sometimes when I get hiccups I start reaching for the saw. Any way then I discovered drinking out of the other side of the glass, this technique has meant that I still have both arms which is very useful in blogging.

  18. Haha! Thank God for this article! I always hiccup after I eat! :))

  19. My go-to is to fill my mouth with water and plug my ears WHILE swallowing it in three big gulps. Looks really stupid but has an approximate 90% success rate in my experience ;)

  20. One teaspoon of raspberry jam has always helped me:-) Easy and good:-)

  21. interesting facts…I’ve always held my breath and it has always worked…not sure what pulling my tongue would do??

  22. Informative article, and I learnt something new that fetuses go through the spasm. I was taught to take 9 gulps of water continuously and it works most of the time.

  23. very thorough piece! My mom used to give me a teaspoon of sugar when I had the hiccups, and it seemed to work. Maybe it was psychological, I don’t know!

  24. Interesting and informative! I’ve enjoyed reading the many suggested cures.
    What works for me: I hold my breath and consciously relax my diaphragm. It’s taking a ‘time out’ and concentrating.

  25. Try eating a spoonful of peanut butter. It works like a charm every time.

  26. Great post. When I get the hiccups, I usually drink a glass of water. But, I’ve also stopped hiccups simply by forcing myself to relax. Mind over body, I guess.

  27. Another great post!! Thanks for sharing Dave

  28. I’ve tried the sugar thing, and it usually doesn’t work for me. But plugging your ears and drinking water at the same time works nearly every time :) Hiccups are such weird things!!

  29. Learned some new things today from reading this post. Didn’t know they could be a sign of illness or disease. Also, hadn’t heard of the odd potential cures but interesting. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

  30. Isn’t it weird that scientists also have no idea why we yawn?

  31. What works best for me is chugging ice water.

  32. My grandma used to say that when you have a hick-up somebody is thinking of you. All you need to do is to think of the person that has you on their mind and the hick-up stops. All I can say is that I am 45 years old and still do it because it works for me…

  33. I use sugar, either in a teaspoon or a sugar packet. Let it sit in the back of your mouth for a little bit, then swallow it slowly. It’s worked for me 9 times out of 10.

  34. valuable insight…

  35. Best way to get rid of the hiccups is to stick out your tongue. You can’t hiccup when you stick out your tongue.

  36. I read a paper (twenty years ago) about hiccups being related to brain stem function. A young man with a tumour in the brain stem had chronic hiccups, and my daughter who had damage to her brain stem also had hiccups several times a day. Brain stem also regulates some stomach function as well, such as emptying of the stomach. Not sure if the paper was followed up with further research. I think basically, for a healthy person, you have to give the stomach time to deal with food. Excellent topic!

  37. There was a 13 yr old girl on the radio today who’s been doing it every few seconds for ten weeks now. Not good! She’s tired out by lunchtime.

  38. Your blog is the answer to every five years old!!!!!!!!! The answer to the dreaded question, “WHY?????” haha. Thanks and keep up the writing. I have enjoyed reading the topics.

  39. The only thing that works for me when I get the hiccups is by drinking 10 sips of water quickly.

  40. You come up with such interesting topics! They’re things we think about all the time, but no one decides to write about it so completely. I love the images you choose, and I love the way you write! Thank you for visiting my blog!

  41. I have had hiccups now for close to a year and a half, I have tried everything
    .
    Often they will stop for a few minutes but they always come back right away. I have been on medications, seen multiple doctors about it and they have no idea! Thankfully mine are very high pitched usually so although embarrassing how much attention it draws to me in public I get told a lot how cute they are haha. I hope I can find a cure for them some day though because I’m really sick of trying to explain to people that Ive had hiccups for this long.

  42. I always get the hiccups when I eat really tough bread – like a bagel. All that chewing means I swallow a lot of air, I guess – like you needed to know that! My favorite cure that works every time is to drink a glass of water while holding my nose and plugging my ears all at the same time. You look weird, but it always works for me and my kids!

  43. I get the hiccups every time I eat carrots! Haven’t found the fix (or cause) for that one yet. :)

  44. Melissa LeGette says:

    I noticed that this cure wasn’t listed, so here I go. Yogurt. The moment you start eating, the hiccups vanish. Every. Single. Time.

  45. Drinking water from the opposite side of the glass (puts you leaning over) cures mine every time!

  46. I suffer from the most violent hiccups and it’s really embarrassing when I get them! And when I do, I think of that man who has had them for so long and I thank my lucky stars that at least I can get rid of mine by holding my breath a certain way. Great blog post!

  47. It is funny how many silly things seem to work for different individuals, one i have noticed is when the hiccuper gets startled, lol! the hiccups stops. Maybe it is due to a change of breathing rhythm whether one concentrates or trying this or that or is caused by external interference..
    Informative post!

  48. I only get hiccups if I drink too much wine. And I never drink to much wine. Hic…

  49. Good article …… I hate hiccups…. sugar works the best for me. :)

  50. They think hiccuping may be a weird evolutionary leftover. Basically, tadpoles were a step in our evolutionary process (or something with similar mechanisms and functions to those of tadpoles.) Tadpoles use a weird “hiccup” like trigger mechanism to switch from gill breathing to lung breathing to avoid flooding their lungs with water. (Tadpoles can use either of these breathing mechanisms since they’re sort of between life stages of having one or the other.) Anyway, sometimes things that are close to genes that matter but aren’t really hurting us tend to hitch a ride through generations. The hiccup is clearly useless to us, but apparently it didn’t hurt us enough to be weeded out by sexual selection.

    So, we may not “know” what causes hiccups, but we’ve got some seriously well informed guesses.

  51. I remember growing up hearing that hiccups were signs that you were growing. Maybe this idea originated from the fact that a fetus hiccups. Hmmm… more to ponder i guess. But interesting post nonetheless!

  52. This is a weird one but it seems to work for me…drinking from the opposite side of a glass. It’s messy so it needs to be done over a sink.

  53. TTake two swallows of water while upside down. Works every time.

  54. For me, it’s hot curries. I love them. Spicy food is my fatal weakness and guess what happens the moment I have my first mouthful. Hiccups!

    One more cure for your list of the unconventional cures: a teaspoon of malt vinegar. It works…. occasionally :-)

  55. I’ve done the traditional cures like holding the breath and drinking water. But I’ve never tried the teaspoon of sugar.

  56. I heard about the tsp of sugar cure years ago and we’ve used it ever since – it always works for my family.

  57. Great post. I remember reading about that guy too. I didn’t realize he hiccuped 40 times a minute! That must have been absolutely horrible.
    Thanks for the info!

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