Most hiccups are usually harmless and stop on their own after a short period of time. But prolonged hiccups can sometimes become a serious problem that requires medical treatment, as the condition has been associated with significant morbidity and even death in some cases. The diaphragm is the muscle that separates your abdomen from the chest, and it plays a vital role in respiration. Hiccups occur when the diaphragm contracts involuntarily. After each contraction, your vocal cords experience a sudden closure, which produces the ‘hic’ sound.
Hiccups usually occur after a large meal or consumption of alcoholic beverages or due to sudden excitement. A spell of hiccups usually lasts only a couple of minutes for most people while in rare cases, hiccups may persist for months. In some cases, hiccups may be indicative of an underlying medical condition. In babies, hiccups may be caused due to coughing, crying or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). However, in adults, some of the reasons that cause irritation of the nerves that extend from the neck to the chest, leading to hiccups are:
- Eating really fast and swallowing air
- Eating or drinking too much
- Chewing gum
- Damage to the vagus or phrenic nerve
- Brain tumors
- Anxiety and stress
- Inhaling noxious fumes
- Certain medications
Home Remedies to Stop Hiccups
There are numerous home remedies that will help you get rid of the annoying hiccups. These remedies are mainly based on two principles. One is to stimulate the vagus nerve with another sensation so that the vagus nerve signals the brain to concentrate on the new matter and to forget about the hiccups. The second method is to increase the level of carbon dioxide in the blood so that the body focuses more on getting rid of the carbon dioxide rather than producing hiccups. Now let’s take a look at the different natural remedies for hiccups:
Swallow a Teaspoonful of Sugar
Sugar is considered to be effective in stopping hiccups. Swallowing a teaspoonful of sugar is probably the most popular methods to cure hiccups. Placing a spoonful of sugar on the back of the tongue helps overload the nerve endings in the mouth with a sweet sensation. This stimulates the vagus nerve and causes the body to forget all about the hiccups.
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Rub Your Ears
Place your thumbs behind your earlobes and rub the entire earlobe with the edge of your index fingers, from top to bottom for at least 20 seconds or more. Focus on the ear- rubbing motion and soon you will forget about the hiccups. For this method to work, it is important that you do it as soon as the hiccups begin.
Some experts recommend putting your fingers in your ears to eliminate hiccups. The vagus nerve also branches into the auditory system and so when your put your fingers in the ears, the nerve endings get stimulated, causing you to forget the hiccups. Make sure to be careful and not stick your fingers deep into your ears.
Drink Cold Water
Another effective way to get rid of hiccups is to drink a glass of cold water. In addition to causing distraction, cold water causes the stomach to contract slightly and expel the excess air. You can also try sucking on a cube of ice for a few seconds.
Hiccups can also be stopped by taking quick sips of water. When you drink quickly, the rhythmic contractions of the esophagus overrides the contractions of the diaphragm.
Sticking your fingers in your ears and sipping through a straw is more effective because you get both the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation and steady swallowing.
Yet another method is to place a single layer of paper towel over the glass and then drink through the towel. Since you will have to work harder with your diaphragm to drink the water, the more focused swallowing overrides the spasmodic diaphragm movements.
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Press the Palm of Your Hand
Using the thumb of your one hand, press the palm of your other hand. The harder you press, the faster will be the results. Another method is to squeeze the ball of your left thumb between the thumb and index finger of the right hand. The squeezing causes a distraction that influences your nervous system to take away its attention from the hiccups.
Drink Water Upside Down
Quite tricky to do, but drinking water upside down is a remedy to cure hiccups. So how do you do that? Take a glass of cold water. Bend down at your waist and drink water from the glass. Rather than drinking from the side closest to you as you normally do, you need to drink from the farthest end or the opposite side of the glass. Even though the water may spill over you, this technique is known to really work. You can also do this by laying upside down over the side of a bed or couch.
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Hold Your Breath
Another age-old cure for hiccups is to hold your breath. When you do this, the amount of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream increases, which in turn distracts the brain, thus helping to stop the cycle of hiccups. It also forces your diaphragm to flatten and stretch, thus helping it to relax and prevent it from going into spasm.
Take a deep breath and then hold it for as long as possible without letting out any air. Then gently and slowly exhale in a controlled manner. Repeat this process again until the hiccups stop.
Breathing into a paper bag, which is tightly pressed around the mouth, is also a good way to stop hiccups.
Drinking vinegar is another effective remedy to get rid of hiccups. The sour taste of vinegar distracts the mind, thus helping to stop the hiccups. You can use any type of vinegar, such as white vinegar, malt vinegar or apple cider vinegar to do the trick.
All you have to do is to just swallow half a teaspoon of vinegar, followed by a glass of water. You can also mix a teaspoon of vinegar with a little water and swallow the solution slowly until the hiccups stop.
Another effective method to stop hiccups is to have a solution of sugar and apple cider vinegar. The mixture triggers the nerves in the mouth and throat that are responsible for causing the hiccups.
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Eat Peanut Butter
Eating peanut butter can help cure those nasty hiccups. When you try to eat the peanut butter, its thick and gooey consistency affects your breathing and swallowing pattern, thus providing relief from hiccups. Apart from peanut butter anything with such a sticky gooey consistency such as Almond Butter or Nutella will also do the trick.
Take a big tablespoon of peanut butter and put it in your mouth. Keep it in your mouth for 5 to 10 seconds and then, swallow it without chewing. You wouldn’t have much difficulty swallowing the peanut butter because the saliva should have broken it down, while it was in your mouth. If needed, drink a glass of water.
Try Sipping Hot Sauce
Sipping hot sauce probably works because the heat and burn caused by the sauce as it traverses down the throat distracts the mind and shifts its focus on the heat and away from the hiccups.
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Get Someone to Scare You
A sudden excitement or getting scared can help get rid of hiccups as it causes the vagus nerve to be stimulated. So the next time you get hiccups, ask a friend or family member to scare you.
Suck on a Lemon Wedge
Sucking on a lemon wedge or having a spoonful of undiluted lemon juice is another technique that can stop hiccups. The natural sourness of the lemon overwhelms the irritated vagus nerves and puts an end to hiccups.
Put a teaspoonful of undiluted lemon juice in your mouth. The sour, overpowering taste of the juice will force you to swallow it hard, which causes the hiccups to stop immediately. You can also mix the juice of a lemon in half a glass of water and drink it quickly to stop the hiccups. Yet another option is to put a little salt on a lemon wedge and then suck the juice out of it slowly.
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Use Green Cardamom
Cardamom has muscle relaxing properties and hence is an effective remedy for hiccups. Boil a handful of cardamom in a glass of water and drink it. Another method is to mix cardamom powder in glass of hot water. Strain it after 15 minutes and drink the solution. You will find immediate relief from the hiccups.
As mentioned earlier, most cases of hiccups aren’t harmful. But they can come at the most inconvenient times, especially when you are in the public, and drive you crazy. The natural remedies suggested in this article can come in handy when you are in such a situation. However, if your hiccups persists for more than 2 days or are severe enough to interfere with your breathing, eating or sleeping, make sure to contact your doctor as soon as possible.