If you’ve ever googled how to get rid of hiccups in a fit of frustration, we really can’t blame you. The human body is infinitely impressive, but as anyone who has hiccups in the middle of a job interview, date, or pretty much any time in life knows, it can also be incredibly annoying. With that in mind, is there anything you can do to get rid of the hiccups on your own? Of course, ask for a friend here. The answer: maybe.
What are hiccups?
Hiccups are involuntary contractions of your diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates your chest from your stomach, says the Mayo Clinic. After each of these contractions, your vocal cords suddenly close – and that creates the classic “hic”
Your diaphragm serves an important purpose: it is the main muscle that you breathe with, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Whenever you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and moves downward. When you exhale, it relaxes and rises into your chest cavity.
If something irritates your diaphragm, it can cause cramps and cause you to suck air into your throat. Aaand Now you have the hiccups. Hiccups usually fade within a few days, says the Cleveland Clinic. If they stay longer, you will face persistent hiccups. If they last a couple Months or longer, which is really rare but still technically possible, they are known as persistent hiccups.
Why do hiccups occur?
It can feel like hiccups are coming out of nowhere, but as mentioned earlier, when something irritates your diaphragm, they usually start, according to the US National Library of Medicine. These irritants can include:
- Eat too fast
- Too many food
- Eat spicy or spicy foods
- drink alcohol
- Drink carbonated drinks
- Diseases that irritate the nerves that control the diaphragm
- Feel nervous or excited
- Certain medications
- Abdominal surgery
- Metabolic disorders
- Central nervous system disorders
The actual mechanisms by which these factors can cause hiccups are somewhat less clear. With this in mind, it is believed to be a reflex between the phrenic nerves and vagus nerves that run from the neck through the chest into the diaphragm. Dr. Celine Thum, who has treated people in the emergency room for significant pain and difficulty eating and communicating from persistent hiccups, says HERSELF.
“There is a hiccup reflex arc that relies on multiple neural pathways believed to have ‘input’ from nerves such as the phrenic nerve and the vagus nerve, a mediator of the central nervous system that can be in either the brain or the spinal cord. ” Output ‘to nerves responsible for the sudden contraction of the diaphragm and the closure of the diaphragm [vocal cords]“, Says Nicole Van Groningen, internist at Cedars-Sinai, to SELF.
Hiccups that last longer than 48 hours tend to have underlying factors, such as nerve damage or irritation from gastroesophageal reflux, which occurs when stomach acid builds up in your esophagus and causes heartburn. Metabolic disorders can also screw up with your hiccups reflex. For example, people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can experience damage to their vagus nerves, which can affect how well their bodies regulate hiccups.
Similarly, health problems such as multiple sclerosis can affect your central nervous system and thereby affect your body’s ability to control your hiccups normally. Some of these include meningitis and traumatic brain injury, says the Mayo Clinic. Various medications, including sedatives and steroids, can also cause hiccups.
How to get rid of hiccups
Here’s the deal: there aren’t many science-based ways to get rid of hiccups. In fact, there is no real medical consensus on exactly how to deal with hiccups. Even so, many doctors swear by these methods of getting rid of hiccups, courtesy of the US National Library of Medicine, the Cleveland Clinic, and various research investigating how to get rid of hiccups: