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What causes hiccup?

Published Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hic! Almost everyone has heard and also involuntary given out this unique yet unmistakable sound sometime in our lives. This uncomfortable experience sometimes causes us or others around us to become annoyed. It may sometimes also cause us to giggle or to be slightly embarrassed depending on where we might be at the time. But have you ever wonder what causes hiccup? I am sure this has crossed your mind sometime in your life. So, lets take a closer look at this usually short-lived uncomfortable experience called hiccup.


In order to fully understand hiccup you will need to have a basic knowledge and understanding of the human diaphragm. So lets take a quick look at what is the diaphragm and its function. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped respiratory muscle, located just below the lungs, separating the chest cavity from the abdomen. Its function is to aid in breathing. When the diaphragm contracts (moving down) the lungs expand causing air to enter. This process is called inhale. Conversely, when the diaphragm relaxes (moving up) the lungs contracts sending air out of the lungs. This process is called exhale.

CLICK IMAGE TO SEE MOVEMENT

So what does this have to do with us having hiccups? Well, hiccup is an uncontrolled spasm in the diaphragm or in other words, a sudden involuntary jerks (contractions) in diaphragm muscle which causes your lungs to quickly draw (suck) in air. As a result of this sudden gush of air flow into the lungs, this causes the glottis (the flap that is located at the top of your windpipe) to abruptly snap shut. Consequently, then comes the characteristic sound: Hic!
Now, to answer the question “what causes hiccup?”. Hiccups are usually triggered by the stimulation of special nerves found in the upper part of our stomach and/or lower part of our esophagus. The vagus nerve which runs from the brain to the abdomen and/or the phrenic nerves that supply the diaphragm usually become irritated. This irritation usually comes from the stomach and digestive system. When this happens the brain sends a response (message) to the diaphragm muscles (effectors) that causes the uncontrolled spasm - hiccup. While there may be many conditions that are associated with the causes of hiccup, experts are still unable or find it difficult to explain hiccups that happen for no obvious reason. Nevertheless, lets look at a few of the different conditions that are associated with the cause of hiccups.

  • Eating your food too fast can cause you to swallow too much air (a stimuli) along with your food. This is due to the erratic breathing. Even though some of the gas usually escape through burping this is usually not the enough since air particles are trapped between pieces of the food.
  • Eating and drinking too much - the stomach resting right below the diaphragm becomes distended and irritates it.
  • Eating a lot of hot and spicy foods.
  • Drinking too fast.

Drinking too much alcohol.

Drinking too much carbonated beverages such as sodas.

Drinking carbonated beverages while eating.

  • Eating too much fatty foods.
  • Any disease or disorder that irritates the nerves that control the diaphragm (such as pleurisy or pneumonia) Stroke or tumor affecting the "hiccup center" in the brain and abdominal surgery
  • Sudden changes in stomach temperature cause by drinking hot beverage followed by a cold one. This is due to the vagus nerve pathways from the brain to the muscles.
  • Emotional situations e.g. stress, excitement or being nervous - due to vagus nerve pathways from the brain to the muscles.
  • Smoking
  • Indigestion
  • Laughing too much
  • Skull fracture
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pneumonia - irritates the nerves that control the diaphragm
  • kidney failure - building up of harmful substances in the blood.
  • Tumor - affects the centre in the brain that is responsible for hiccup.
  • Certain disorders of the stomach or esophagus such as: alcoholism, pancreatitis and hepatitis.
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Any irritation in the stomach and/or throat.

Common Cures for the Hiccups

There are many common remedies that claim to cure hiccups. A few of them are listed below. Some of them might seem quite weird but, I guess they must have worked for some people. If you should have an hiccup you may try any of the following given below, it might just work.

  • Pull your tongue
  • Eating granulated sugar - stimulate digestion.
  • Eating a teaspoon of honey
  • Drink water (slowly)- probable clear the throat of any irritant or dilute its effect in the digestive system or wash food particle that may rest on a specific nerve.
  • Drinking water while covering your ears.
  • Swallowing crushed ice
  • Swallowing piece of dry bread.
  • Induced sneezing.
  • pressing on the eyeballs.
  • Tickling the upper roof of the mouth a cotton swab.
  • Sudden fright - probably moves the brain attention away from the reflex action of the diaphragm and instead concentrating on preparing the body for fight or flight.
  • Prescribed drugs e.g. chlorpromazine.
  • Holding your breath after breathing in deeply.
  • Exhaling and inhaling into a brown paper bag. This increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. A logical explanation for this could be that the brain receives messages from the vagus nerve about the carbon dioxide build up. This could then cause the brain to shifts its attention from diaphragm jerky contraction to a more serious problem of trying to get the body to get rid of the poisonous carbon dioxide gas thus, stopping the hiccup. a sudden shock can also have a similar effect.

And many more.

Discussion:
Hiccups usually go away within minutes but in some rare cases they can persist for hours, days weeks, months and even years!! If it not going away then there is need to see a doctor. A hiccup for more than two days are called persistent or protracted hiccups while if it is more than a month it is called intractable hiccups. There is a case where someone by the name Charles Osborne had it for 69years!! Hiccups over a long time span usually have to do with complication of the brain, spinal cord, diaphragm and its surrounding structures. Prolong (intractable) hiccup can induce depression, sleep deprivation and weight loss .

The causes and purpose of hiccup is not fully known however, the body is always protecting itself from injury or harm so the reflex action that causes hiccup is the body ways of dealing with signals that say something is not quite right. Also, the cause of most hiccups remains a puzzle. Nevertheless, it seems that any condition that causes the irritation of the throat and diaphragm including anything that place pressure on its nerve or around the diaphragm structure can cause hiccups.
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20 Comments:

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Peter said...
 
At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Frank said...
 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger puremood said...
 
At 1:33 PM, Blogger Furkids In Hong Kong said...
 
At 6:52 AM, Blogger R. Edmondson said...
 
At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Frank said...
 
At 8:36 AM, Blogger Jillian said...
 
At 1:21 PM, Blogger Ben said...
 
At 11:49 PM, Blogger Shelly said...
 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger Mike said...
 
At 10:30 PM, Blogger The Phoenix said...
 
At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
 
At 11:23 AM, Blogger Orikinla Osinachi. said...
 
At 10:16 PM, Blogger Web Launch said...
 
At 1:18 AM, Blogger R. Edmondson said...
 
At 8:27 PM, Anonymous yvonne anderson said...
 
At 7:15 PM, Blogger R. Edmondson said...
 
At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Andrea @ mineral cosmetics said...
 
At 5:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
 
At 8:39 AM, Anonymous cheap beats by dre said...
 

Imagine one who hiccupped for 69+ years! And still have 2 wifes!
Hic Hic Hurray
Enviroman Says

I've come upon your blog twice now (through BlogAdvance.) Thus, I am commenting.

It must be fate, my dear
That has brought me here.
But have no fear,
For now I depart.
I have concluded that it is better to hiccup
Than it is to fart.

(Yes, there are too many syllables. Sue me. :-P.)

Very informative post. Thanks!

OK... pulling your tongue and presing eyeballs? I've never heard those - plus a few others. Hmm... I wonder if it really works. LOL

Hiccups don't bother me - I just use the 'hold my breath' method.

But I love it when friends/family have them - gives me a valid reason to freak them out!

Thanks again for the good post.

Enviroman:

Charles Osborne hiccup started in 1922 until February, 1990!! 69 years is a very long time for such an annoying condition. The funny thing is that he died the following year. I guess he became so attached to it.

Frank:

Thanks for stopping by. You are good at the rhyming and also have a good sense of humor : )

It must be fate, yes my dear
That has brought you here.
But have no fear,
Because learning takes place here.
For now you depart,
But remember what I impart.
You have concluded that it is better to hiccup than it is to fart but, do remember where that conclusion start.

Have fun and take care : )

PureMood:

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Those remedies are very weird but I guess they work - who knows?. Tell you what, the next time you have an hiccup try one of these strange one and let me know if it works. Hmmm! : )

Furkids In Hong Kong:

Okay, that one works for you. What about pulling your tongue or pressing on the eyeballs? Try one of these also and let me if it works. At least you have confirm one so far :)

Thanks for the comment and for being a regular reader. It is very much appreciated.

You have quite the sense of humor yourself :)

What an interesting blog!

The only way I know to really stop hiccups is to drink a glass of water backwards (leaning forward and drinking the water out of the opposite side of the glass). It really works -- honestly! :o)

The drinking fromthe back of the glass method works a treat for me

Hi,

Very interesting idea for a blog. I plan to come back and browse. Thanks for visiting mine and leaving a comment. :)

What works for me: Put your hands out and slowly bring your pointing fingers together. Look directly at both fingers, and concentrate hard. As you bring them together, you're eyes will cross a little bit and you'll end up having an optical illusion where your fingers will cross.

Probably related to having someone scare you, i.e. your brain gets distracted.

Great blog...I like this kind of stuff, learning about things that I never took the time to learn about before.

Very informative.

Among my people in Eastern Nigeria,
hiccups could be a bad omen. So, when the hiccups are frequent, the elders seek the spiritual remedy to save the life of the person the bad omen must be warning.

Among my people in Eastern Nigeria, hiccups could be a bad omen. When someone is having frequent hiccups, they fear for his/her life.

thanks for the info!

Free Articles

Frank:

Thank you :)

Jillian:

Haa haa! That is really a weird one but the important thing is that it works :)

Thank you very much for the comment and visit.

Ben:

I can just image : ) Who knows, I might just try one of these cures and see if it works for me.

Thanks for the visit and comment.

Shelly:

You are welcome : ) Thanks also for the visit and the comment.

Mike:

You are so right there Mike. Thanks for that one : )
Thanks also for the visit and the comment.

The Phoenix:

Thank you very much for that compliment : ) I am glad that the purpose of this site is fulfilling its purpose.

Thanks for the visit and comment.

Orikinla Osinachi:

Thanks for that quite interesting info. I wasn’t aware of that one. Use the “causes of hiccup” that I have provided in the article as a guide - you don’t want to have one now : )

Thanks

Web Launch:

Thank you very much.

I found this article very interesting. I am particularly pleased with the scientific explanations as well as what to do to stop the hics. Great job

Yvonne:
Thanks very much for the compliment and visit.
Please do come again :)

Great post. What I do every time I have hiccup is I breath in then hold it for 3 seconds. After that I take a deep breath and hold it as long as I can. If I feel like I'm going to explode, I release it. Works every time.

I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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I envy your situation - I would love to bypass any activity that involved dealing with the SPAM agents. Having said that, I'd hate to let even one of them through so I'll persevere.

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