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What Causes Hiccups?

Everyone and their mother seems to have a unique cure for a bad case of the hiccups, but what I want to know is, what causes them in the first place?

A hiccup is an unintentional contraction of your diaphragm, the muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen. It plays an important role in breathing, and when it contracts, it makes your vocal cords close briefly and that's what causes the sound of a hiccup.

Hiccups are actually triggered by many things:

  • Eating spicy foods - It can cause irritation to the nerves that control normal contractions of your diaphragm.
  • Eating a large meal, eating too fast (swallowing air), or drinking carbonated beverages - These can cause your stomach to expand, which pushes up your diaphragm, making hiccups more likely.
  • Drinking alcohol - Alcohol can relax your diaphragm and vocal cords, making it easier for other factors to trigger hiccups.
  • Tobacco use - Tobacco use may irritate the nerves that control the diaphragm.

Want to know what else can cause hiccups? Then

  • Sudden temperature changes - Whether the change occurs inside your body (like drinking hot tea), or outside your body (when you go outside in the snow), it can cause hiccups.
  • Excitement or emotional stress - It's not clear why this can cause hiccups, but it may have to do with one of the nerves involved in the hiccup reflex being startled.

As annoying as hiccups can be, even if you don't sip water through a straw while pinching your nose, or hold your breath while saying the word "hippopotamus" in your head 5 times, hiccups will eventually go away on their own. Very rarely do hiccups last for more than 20-30 minutes. If they do, like this poor girl who had them for 3 weeks straight, there could be an underlying medical problem such as nerve damage. If this is the case, someone should definitely seek medical attention pronto.


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