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Understanding the Hiccups: Causes, Triggers, and Natural Solutions

Hiccups are one of those bizarre things that come up unexpectedly and that we don’t give a second thought to until we have them. Some people very rarely get hiccups, while others seem to get them more frequently and have trouble getting them to go away.

In this article, we’re looking at what causes the hiccups, common hiccup triggers, and also natural ways to get rid of them when they strike.

Photo credit: derneuemann via Pixabay

Causes of Hiccups

Pretty much everyone has had the hiccups at some time because the body’s diaphragm can spasm involuntarily.  When this spasm occurs, your vocal cords close as the diaphragm muscles contract, which causes the familiar hiccup sound.

Hiccups can be caused by swallowing too much air while eating quickly. This can also happen due to chewing gum or smoking cigarettes. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or carbonated beverages can cause the hiccups too. In more serious cases, hiccups could be the result of a stroke, brain tumor, liver problems, or damage to the phrenic or vagus nerves.

Triggers for Hiccups

Certain medications, especially ones taken for acid reflux disorder, can be a trigger for hiccups. Toxic fumes, anxiety, and stress can trigger their onset as well. Babies and children may develop hiccups after crying for long periods of time, and little ones with gastroesophageal reflux may have hiccups more often too.

Natural Ways to Treat Hiccups

Some of the best ways to get rid of the hiccups involve focusing on your breathing. Try holding your breath for at least 10 seconds, breathing into a paper bag, or practice measured breathing with five-count inhales and five-count exhales. You can also focus on pressure points in the body to relieve hiccups, such as pressing on the diaphragm, pulling on the tongue, or massaging the neck.

Sipping ice water helps some people get over the hiccups, as well as sucking on an ice cube or gargling with ice water. Meanwhile, other people swear by eating a teaspoon of honey or peanut butter and letting the sticky substances dissolve for a bit in the mouth before swallowing. Other natural methods to try for hiccups relief include sucking on a lemon, triggering your gag reflex by sticking a finger down your throat, and distracting yourself with something engaging so that you forget about your hiccups.

Photo credit: Troy Tolley via Flickr

Medical Care for Hiccups

Hiccups rarely warrant professional medical attention, but it is possible that hiccups are a sign of a more serious medical condition if they don’t go away within about three hours or occur on a frequent basis. It may also be time to see a doctor for hiccups if they are getting in the way of maintaining a normal sleep schedule, eating a regular diet, or are accompanied by fevers or vomiting. But more often than not, hiccups are just one of those strange things we have to deal with every once in a while and that make us feel relieved once they go away by trying one of the methods mentioned here or just naturally on their own.

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