One of the unexpected pleasures I’ve had in working in Body Worlds have been discussions about hiccups. There are several plastinated bodies that show the diaphragm -- the usual instigator of hiccups -- very well.
Along with those discussions have been a ton of comments from visitors about how they stop their hiccups. So I put it to you Science Buzz readers…what is your cure for hiccups?
Courtesy Gray's Anatomy
I’ve been surprised at how few people actually know what happens in their body when they have the hiccups, so let’s cover that first.
The diaphragm is a large muscle that stretches across your entire torso, just below your lungs. It moves up and down to help your lungs inhale and exhale the air you breathe.
A hiccup occurs when the diaphragm experiences a spasm. You’ve probably felt your arm or leg muscles spasm, when they kind of twitch without you doing anything to make that happen. When the diaphragm spasms, it causes a quick intake of breath. But that breath is stopped quickly because the vocal cords in your throat close. The resulting turbulence of air in your throat makes the sound of a hiccup.
So why does the diaphragm spasm? One of the main causes is a full stomach. Factors leading to a full stomach that can lead to hiccups include eating too much food too fast, drinking too much alcohol, swallowing too much air, smoking, a sudden change in stomach temperature (like drinking a hot beverage after a cold beverage) or emotional stress or excitement.
In most cases, hiccups go away in just a few minutes. If they go on for a longer period of time, your abdomen may start to hurt. In rare instances, hiccups can last for more than 48 hours. Those persistent hiccups are usually a sign of more serious health problems and should be checked on by a doctor. Those conditions could include a problem with the central nervous system; problems in the body’s chemistry for kidney functions or hyperventilating; irradiation of the nerves in the head, neck or chest; anesthesia or surgery; mental health problems.
The best cures for regular forms of hiccups involve increasing the level of carbon dioxide in your blood. So how do you think you can do that?