Hiccups are caused by involuntary spasms of the diaphragm and this in turn causes repeated sharp inhalations of breath.
The diaphragm is the powerful muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen and which increases the volume of the chest as air is breathed in. When we breathe in the diaphragm contracts and the lungs are inflated by drawing air into our bodies through the windpipe. When we breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and the air flows out of our lungs as they deflate.
Hiccups are caused by irritation of the diaphragm for instance when the stomach is over full or there is inflammation of the membrane around the heart. Other causes of hiccups include: eating too quickly, eating something very hot, sobbing, coughing, laughing or drinking fizzy drinks or too much alcohol. Some people get hiccups when they’re excited or nervous. This sudden and involuntary contraction of the muscles of the diaphragm also produces a ‘hic’ sound, hence the name hiccups. Usually hiccups don’t last for more than a few minutes but for some people, hiccups last for days and even weeks although this is unusual and may be indication of a medical problem.
There are copious traditional and folk remedies for treating hiccups. Ask a dozen people what they do to stop hiccupping and you will probably get a dozen different answers! Here are some natural ways and therapies that might helps stop that annoying ‘hic.’
Drink a couple of glasses of water ~ Some might recommend: drink a glass of water slowly from the side of the glass furthest from you.
Or: drink chilled water while stretching out the neck as far as possible while swallowing
Or: drink a glass of water without stopping to breathe while blocking both ears
Surprise the sufferer for instance with a loud noise or dropping something cold (an ice cube or door key) down the back of the neck.
Gargle for a couple of minutes with hot water.
Breathe in deeply and hold your breath and count to ten or hold your breath for as long as possible.
Take deep breaths into a paper bag
Or: breathe in deeply. through our mouth, lean forward, push down your stomach and hold that position as long as possible before slowly exhaling through your mouth
Try a teaspoon of peanut butter
Place an ice pack on the diaphragm for a few minutes
Some people recommend placing some sugar under the tongue
Suck on small pieces of fresh ginger
When should you consult a doctor about hiccups?
If your hiccups last for more than three hours, there is abdominal pain or you are spitting up blood you should consult a doctor.
Herbal Remedies for treating hiccups: Sip peppermint or lemon balm tea.
Kindersley D “Complete Family Health Guide” Dorling Kindesley (2005)
Stoppard Dr M “Family Health Guide” Dorling Kindersley (2005)