What Causes Hiccups – And How To Make Them Go Away
by Trisha Leigh
Hiccups are one of those little facts of life that are annoying, but not to the point (at least not most of the time) that we bother to think much about them once they’re gone.
They are curious little things, though, and finny enough, science knows quite a bit about what causes them to show up – and how to get them to go away.
Hiccups are a reflex where the diaphragm goes into a spasm. They’re involuntary and can have any number of triggers, though it’s very rare that they signal an underlying medical condition.
Some triggers include eating too fast or too much, drinking cold or carbonated drinks, imbibing alcohol, or experiencing shock, surprise, or an otherwise stressful situation.
In rare cases, they can be triggered by infection, organ damage, disease, benign tumors, or – very rarely – cancer.
But regardless of what harmless reason you’ve got them, what we all want to know is, can we get reliably get rid of them?
There’s all kinds of advice and tips out there, tricks people swear really work, but what do the scientists say?
The truth is that most of them all have the effect of attempting to disrupt your diaphragm in the hopes that it will “reset” and stop spasming.
Official advice backs up the well-known “holding your breath for a short period,” as well as breathing into a paper bag.
NHS England also suggests pulling your knees up to your chest and leaning forward, sipping ice-water, and tasting something sharp like lemon or vinegar.
Harvard Medical School suggests a three-step process called “supra-supramaximal inspiration.”
First, take a deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds. Then, suck in a tiny bit more air without exhaling – then do it again before breathing out.
Published information states the method is thought to compress the hiccups by acting on the spasming diaphragm and increasing carbon dioxide levels in the body.
Basically, holding your breath and hope for the best.
But if that doesn’t work, there’s a good chance they’re going to go away on their own fast enough, anyway.