Hiccups are repetitive, involuntary, short intakes of breath accompanied by a distinctive sound.
Hiccups are caused by involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, causing a short, involuntary intake of breath. The intake of breath is stopped by the glottis (a valve in the oesophagus), which suddenly closes, producing the characteristic sound.
Common triggers are those things that irritate the nerves of the diaphragm, including:
- Carbonated drinks
- Eating too quickly and not chewing food sufficiently
- Swallowing too much air (e.g. talking whilst eating)
- Frequent episodes of hiccups may indicate an imbalance of the digestive system.
- The treatment of recurrent hiccups centres on addressing underlying digestive problems.
- Herbs such as dandelion root and gentian may be indicated to stimulate the production of the gastric juices required for efficient food digestion.
- Chamomile tea is calming and antispasmodic and may help to relieve the spasm of the diaphragm.
- Only the most persistent and troublesome cases of hiccups require medication. Consult your healthcare practitioner if home remedies fail to resolve your hiccups in a reasonable amount of time.
Life Style Factors
There are numerous home remedies for hiccups aimed at inhibiting diaphragmatic spasm. These include:
- Holding your breath and swallowing at the same time you feel the urge to hiccup
- Breathing into a paper bag: place a brown paper bag (be sure never to use a plastic bag) over your mouth and breathe in and out for a minute or two; you will be breathing in your own carbon dioxide which should help your hiccups
- Sipping a glass of water rapidly
- Swallowing dry bread, crushed ice or a spoonful of sugar
- If your child has the hiccups, tickle him gently while instructing him/her to hold their breath and not to laugh
Always take time to chew your food properly, and don’t eat with your mouth open.
Avoid carbonated beverages such as beer and soft drink.