What really causes hiccups

Once that spasm and clicking noise starts in the throat, there’s no stopping to it. Hiccups come in a cyclic manner and usually go off by itself without any treatment. Rarely hiccups occur as a result of serious illness and might need medical intervention.

What are hiccups?
Hiccups, also known as hiccoughs or singultus is a sound produced by rapid inhalation of air due to diaphragmatic spasm followed by rapid closure of glottis. It’s a physiological process that initiates in utero before birth.

What Causes Hiccups – Reflex Mechanism of Hiccups
Diaphragm is the muscular partition between thorax and abdomen that facilitates the act of breathing. Diaphragm contracts to facilitate the air entry into the chest cavity resulting in inspiration. During expiration, diaphragm relaxes forcing the air out of the lungs.

The diaphragm goes into involuntary spasm causing an abnormal respiratory movement. This leads to sudden inspiration of air and glottis blocks further air entry into the windpipe. The inhaled air strikes the glottis to produce the distinguishing sound “hic.”

Causes of Hiccups
Hiccups occur when the phrenic nerve supplying the diaphragm is irritated and the process is initiated to defend unnatural irritants. Lets have a look at general triggers that cause self-limiting episodes of hiccups.

  • Overeating or eating too fast
  • Swallowing air
  • Eating after long durations
  • Eating spicy, hot or cold foods
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Alcohol and smoking
  • Emotional excitation and nervousness
  • Without apparent reason

Treating and Preventing Hiccups
Preventing hiccups necessitates fixing the causative factor in your case and completely avoiding it. Here are some home remedies for curing small fits of hiccups.

  • Gulping down a glass of water
  • Gargling with water
  • Small sips of water
  • Placing sugar under the tongue
  • Eating bread
  • Holding breath
  • Focusing on the hiccup
  • Breathing into a paper bag
  • Distracting oneself
  • Scaring the affected individual
  • Inducing sneezing artificially

Methods like holding breath, taking short breaths or breathing into a bag should be avoided or practiced in modest proportion as it tends to increase the percentage of carbon dioxide in blood and may lead to vertigo and fainting. Though the importance of hiccup in protecting the body is not known it can be inferred that hiccup caused during eating protects the airway from food particles entering it – that would otherwise result in choking. Also the food stuck in the esophagus tends to move forward due to the hiccup.

In case hiccups tend to stay longer than usual, immediate consultation with a medical professional is a must. Illnesses like pneumonia, gastrointestinal disorders, alcoholism and kidney disease may show up with hiccups in addition to other symptoms.

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