While you may not know them by their medical definition (singultus), hiccups are very common and something you’ve probably experienced on more than one occasion. While they are not typically cause for concern, there are some instances where persisting hiccups may actually be indicative of other underlying medical conditions. In this article you will find out what some of those conditions might be, as well as other information on possible causes of hiccups and what you can to do banish them.
When you develop hiccups, this is because the nerves that extend from the neck to the chest are irritated. It is this irritation that causes the diaphragm muscle to have brief but also involuntary contractions.
One of the most common reasons why these involuntary diaphragm muscle contractions will occur is as a result of eating or drinking too fast. When you drink or eat too fast, you may have sudden inspiration (swallowing of air), which will then result in hiccups. You can also develop hiccups if you eat too much or eat foods that are considered irritating. For example, foods that are spicy, foods that are too hot, or foods that are too cold. To avoid getting the hiccups, always make sure you’re eating slowly, and don’t over-indulge. This will not only (hopefully) prevent you from getting the hiccups, but the less over-indulgence there is, the more likely you are to also make healthier food choices – and may even lose weight if that’s something you’re trying to do. Similar to food, the things we drink can also play a role in the development of hiccups – especially if it’s alcohol. Alcoholic beverages (beer, for example) tend to aggravate acid reflux, which can then aggravate the esophagus as well as the vagus nerve. It is this combination that leads to hiccups. Along with alcohol, other carbonated beverages, such as soda, can also cause the same reaction.
If you’re a cigarette smoker, this too can cause hiccups. When you smoke a cigarette, you’re also unknowingly swallowing air. Hiccups aside, tobacco use can lead to a plethora of long-term health concerns – including respiratory problems (such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and COPD), cardiovascular disease (such as heart disease, stroke, and blood clots), and even cancer. If you are a smoker and are wanting to quit, you can find some of my smoking cessation tips by clicking here.
Believe it or not, your emotional state can also play a huge role in the development of hiccups. Whether you’re over-excited, anxious, or stressed about something, these are all different types of emotions that can lead to hiccups due to the rush of adrenaline and rise in heart rate. So, when you feel that starting to happen, it’s important to remind yourself to breathe and find a way to relax. Something that I strongly suggest trying to calm the mind is to practice different relaxation techniques or breathing exercises. Meditation and yoga can also be helpful. If you find your mind is in a constant state of overdrive and are having trouble slowing down its pace on your own, this is something that should be addressed with your primary healthcare provider as he or she may be able to prescribe you a mild, low-dose medication to help you relax. The more relaxed you are, the lower your chance of getting those annoying hiccups.
Only do hiccups become concerning when they start to last all day – but even more so if they’ve lasted 48 hours with no reprieve. As mentioned, persisting hiccups could be the result of an underlying medical condition. These hiccup-causing conditions can include everything from GERD (acid reflux), certain neurological diseases, different infections, and, in rare cases, even cancer. If your hiccups do happen to persist for the aforementioned length of time, it’s important that you seek out medical attention as soon as possible so that you can try to get down to the root cause. Seldomly, physicians may also prescribe different types of medications (metoclopramide being one) to help stop hiccups that are persisting.
While some of these may sound strange, some different techniques that have also been long-known to stop hiccups in their tracks include drinking a glass of water quickly, gargling with water, sucking on a lemon, or holding your breath briefly.