Hiccups are a very common phenomenon, so common that it’s been suggested that they long predate humans, that they are, perhaps, a vestigial product of a time when our amphibious ancestors were learning to breathe air and needed to protect their primitive lungs before they were ready.
But if we’re just looking at the most immediate causes of hiccups, there are a few simpler explanations.
Common Causes of Hiccups
Hiccups are caused by a spasm of the diaphragm, the muscle below the stomach and lungs that moves to allow breath in and out of the lungs.
One of the most common explanations for why these spasms occur is a simple mechanical irritation. When the stomach gets too full or fills too fast, it can irritate the diaphragm, resulting in the spasms that cause hiccups.
Less Common Causes for Hiccups
However, not all hiccups are caused by your stomach. Some are caused by the nerves that control the diaphragm. These can be caused by transient stimuli that impacts the nerves that control this important organ and its action. These nerves can be disturbed by rapid temperature change or an emotional situation.
Alcohol can cause hiccups if it causes the stomach to fill fast, but it can also cause irritation of the phrenic nerve, the nerve that controls your diaphragm.
Chronic hiccups that can’t be traced to a specific cause may be due to nerve damage or injury.
Getting Rid of Hiccups
In most cases, hiccups will go away on their own, but if you don’t have time to wait, you can try to get rid of them using home remedies. Holding your breath and breathing into a paper bag can actually work to stop hiccups because they stimulate your body to reset the breathing system whose dysfunction caused the hiccups. A glass of water taken with controlled breathing may also be able to help.
If these and other home remedies do not work, you should talk to a doctor about your hiccups. If you are looking for a family doctor in Littleton, please contact Dr. Andy Fine today for an appointment.