What Causes Hiccups?

Young Man with Hiccup
What Causes Hiccups?

10 Things You Should Know About What Causes Hiccups


Hiccups: they’re the result of involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, a muscle inside the chest which plays a part in breathing. As the diaphragm tightens, the space in between the vocal cords closes, and leads to a characteristic “hic” noise.


This tightening might serve a purpose, assisting in ridding your gut of trapped air and drawing swallowed food sources down toward the stomach, yet most folks find hiccups to be more irritating than helpful. And, actually, no one knows precisely why hiccups happen.


However, there are several theories such as aiding in preparing an unborn baby to breathe or clearing air from the stomach. It has even been implied that hiccups might be associated with ‘an ancient reflex of gill breathing that was held over from the time our ancestors crawled in from the ocean.’


As for its causes, hiccups sometimes are triggered by outside factors, such as eating too fast (gulping your food), consuming carbonated beverages, and gum chewing.


Hiccups, however, actually are an involuntary movement partly triggered by the autonomic nervous system (that additionally controls your pupil dilation, heartbeat, and a host of involuntary bodily functions).


Even unborn babies may hiccup, which is considered to perhaps assist them in preparing them for breathing. However, while pretty much everyone occasionally gets hiccups, there really is no hard and fast cure. Here we discuss the 10 things you should know about what causes hiccups:

10Irritation to The Phrenic Nerves or the Vagus


Hiccups that go long term are most oftentimes the result of irritation to the phrenic nerves, or the vagus, which serve the diaphragm muscle. This type of irritation might be caused by sore throat, gastroesophageal reflux, a tumor, laryngitis, cyst, or goiter in the neck or even a hair that touches the eardrum.


If the phrenic nerve becomes damaged, breathing difficulty is a typical symptom, and a shortness of breath while lying flat. A list of the typical causes of phrenic nerve damage are:


  • Spinal cord injury: Depending upon which vertebrae become damaged, nerve impulses may be disrupted.
  • Physical trauma (Neck injury)
  • Trauma or surgical complications: Up to 10 percent of phrenic nerve damage cases are caused by surgical trauma. Due to its location, damage unintentionally may occur during abdominal or heart surgery.


Symptoms are varied, depending upon whether the right or left nerve becomes damaged. If just one is damaged, a patient continually is going to breathe, although it’ll be labored. If both nerves become damaged, it’ll become medically urgent, as the patient can no longer breathe by himself. Additional symptoms are:


  • Issues with the hiccups. A hiccup reflex may become triggered by irritation of the phrenic nerve, which makes the diaphragm abnormally contract, which results in a small air intake.
  • The most serious phrenic nerve damage impact is diaphragm paralysis that prevents a patient from having the ability to regulate breathing on her or his own.


Treatment, fortunately exists for damage, although treatments differ depending upon the presentation and severity.

9Result of Trauma, Infection, or Damage to the Central Nervous System


In other instances, long-term hiccups may be the result of trauma, infection, or damage to the central nervous system that disrupts the body’s capability of controlling the hiccup reflex.


It includes factors like traumatic brain injury, stroke, meningitis, tumors, multiple sclerosis and much more. Up to 9% of advanced cancer patients suffer with chronic hiccups.


The following are a few key points about your central nervous system:


  • The central nervous system comprises of the spinal cord and brain.
  • A brain is the most complex body organ and uses 20% of the overall oxygen we take in.
  • A brain comprises of around 100 billion neurons, with each one attached with thousands more.
  • A brain may be separated into four main lobes: frontal, occipital, parietal, and temporal.


The central nervous system comprises of the spinal cord and brain.

Your brain is protected by your skull (cranial cavity) and your spinal cord goes from the back of your brain, down to the center of your spine, and stops within the lower back’s lumbar region.


The spinal cord and brain are both housed inside a protective triple-layered membrane referred to as the meninges.


The CNS has been studied thoroughly by physiologists and anatomists, yet it still holds a multitude of secrets; it’ll control our desires, emotions, movements, and thoughts. Also, it’ll control our heart rate, breathing, body temperature, the release of hormones, and more.


Sometimes, the optic nerve, retina, olfactory epithelium, and olfactory nerves are considered to be a portion of the central nervous system along with the spinal cord and brain. It’s because they directly connect with brain tissue without any intermediate nerve fibers.

8Eating Too Fast, Eating A Large Meal


Potential common causes of short-range hiccups are: overeating. Indigestion (additionally called dyspepsia) occasionally occurs to almost everyone. A chronic digestive problem or eating habits may trigger indigestion.


Indigestion may cause bloating or stomach pain. You also may have nausea, vomiting and heartburn. Other typical symptoms of indigestion are:


  • excessive belching or gas
  • gnawing sensation inside the stomach
  • burning sensation inside the esophagus or stomach
  • feeling very full after consuming a normal-sized meal
  • feeling full during meals and not having the ability to finish eating

It is essential that you not ignore serious indigestion symptoms. Consult your physician immediately if you suffer any of these:


  • difficulty swallowing
  • black stools
  • unexplained weight loss
  • vomit that’s bloody or appears like coffee grounds
  • severe vomiting


Even though none of these were shown to stop hiccups, these possible treatments for hiccups may be attempted at home:


  • Relax and breathe in a controlled, slow manner.
  • Attempt the Valsalva maneuver by closing your nose and mouth and forcibly exhaling.
  • Bring the knees to the chest then maintain that position.
  • Try to purposefully belch or gasp.
  • Lift the uvula using a spoon. The uvula is the fleshy tissue piece suspended above the back of the throat.
  • Pull on the tongue.
  • Consume some cold water.
  • Hold your breath.
  • Eat one teaspoon of granulated sugar.
  • Breathe into a paper bag.

7Spicy Foods


If you like some heat with your meal, you are in luck, as spicy food sources are the best for your health. Capsaicinoid discovered in the food was connected with the prevention of chronic diseases. Paired with their high concentration of antioxidants and vitamins, spicy peppers are a special superfood, if you’re able to tolerate the heat. But, while healthy and tasty, those little spice bombs also may cause the hiccups.


Hiccups might be triggered from stomach distension or the irritating of the nerve to the diaphragm while drinking too fast. Spicy peppers do not trigger hiccups in that way though. Even though the precise way the pepper triggers hiccups hasn’t definitively been established, researchers know that not all people get hiccups from chili peppers.


Though some folks get hiccups merely anticipating consuming hot peppers, other people never get them. Capsaicin, the chemical in peppers, which produces the heat, is thought to irritate the nerve which causes hiccups. Other folks think the chemical is released inside the mouth within a fine spray which enters your lungs and disrupts your regular diaphragm rhythm. As the diaphragm starts to contract and relax in order to expel the substance from the lungs, it causes a hiccup.


There are different techniques you might’ve heard about or read to eliminate hiccups. These treatments include breathing exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, Pilates, and yoga. Each of those options for treatment assist in reducing anxiety and controlling breathing that seems to be the modalities which worked best for constant hiccups.

6Tobacco Use


Hiccups have been associated with several causes. For instance, smoking cessation and active smoking may trigger hiccupping.  It never is too late to stop smoking. Around 50% of all smokers who keep on smoking are going to die from a smoking-associated disease, according to American Cancer Society. Quitting has instant health benefits.


Around 40 percent of smokers who want to stop make a serious attempt to it every year, yet less than 5 percent actually succeed, according National Institutes of Health. Available smoking cessation therapies and products, unfortunately, are vastly underused. If more smoker were offered or asked for such assistance, the agency claims quit rates might triple or double.


Some folks have specific genes which make it easier to quit. Duke University researchers identified over 200 genes which distinguish the ones who’ve successfully stopped smoking. It’s the first time these types of genes have been identified. Their findings might lead to fresh smoking cessation therapies which target an individual’s specific genetic makeup.


Nicotine replacement therapy includes the usage of products which offer low nicotine doses which don’t contain the contaminants that are found in smoke. The objective of therapy includes relieving cravings for nicotine and easing withdrawal symptoms.


Generally, nicotine replacement therapy benefits those moderate-to-heavy users the most. But, it appears somewhat useful for light smokers (those who smoke less than 15 cigarettes per day).


Nicotine patches generate nicotine through your skin. It’s referred to as transdermal nicotine delivery. It’s effective at decreasing symptoms during withdrawal. Such patches are obtainable over the counter.

5 Overexcitement


It isn’t clear why this may cause hiccups; however, it might correlate with one of the nerves included in the hiccup reflex becoming startled. Much of what’s known about the hiccup reflex anatomy derives from a study of pathological hiccups that may arise as a result of malignancy or infection close to the diaphragm, or from brain lesions. Afferent signals derive from the stomach, distal esophagus, and abdominal side of your diaphragm and go to part of the the vagus, the phrenic nerve, and sympathetic chain branches. This afferent limb path is variable in between individuals, as is the stimulus degree needed to initiate this reflex.


The central element of the reflex lies inside the medulla. Electrophysiological research and the pattern of muscle contraction imply that the center for the hiccup reflex is separate from all pathways that are involved in rhythmic breathing. A group of patients who had Wallenberg’s syndrome (lateral medullary infarction) and hiccups imply that dorsolateral and middle level lesions may trigger hiccups.


As initiated, hiccups typically happen at a rate of 4 to 60 a minute. This frequency remains pretty constant in the person, yet may be modified by a variety of conditions. Hiccups are suppressed by increases within serum carbon dioxide and may be caused by gastric distention, fast eating, or consuming carbonated drinks.

4 Consuming Carbonated Beverages Triggers Hiccups


After swallowing down a meal, and some delectable desserts with a carbonated drink, you start feeling your diaphragm tighten, and vocal cords all of a sudden close as you make an unexpected “hiccup” noise — a case of the hiccups. This uncomfortable yet short-lived experience has you holding your breath, hopping on your foot, and running around across the room, all because the remedy worked that one time. A couple of hops and hiccups later, you might start asking yourself what triggers hiccups and why do we make those “hic” sounds?


Usually, toward the completion of gestation, it’s believed that fetuses oftentimes hiccup in the womb, according to Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, in order to prepare a fetus for breathing air upon birth. As the fetus hiccupping significantly is decreased between 24 – 46 weeks, breathing movements rise at this time.


Even though hiccups may be tracked back to before birth, modifiable daily habits are what cause periodic bouts. A full stomach like rapidly consuming mac and cheese or a plate of nachos, and consuming carbonated drinks, is one of the primary irritants which increases the likelihood of hiccups. Those unhealthy eating habits cause stomach distention which irritate the diaphragm and trigger it to go into a spasm when you gulp air. It’s this sudden muscle contractions which causes the closing of the epiglottis — the area between the vocal cords which protects the glottis — to shut off, as well as produce the hic noise, according to the Mayo Clinic.

3 Swallowing Air When Chewing Gum


There are several possible causes of excess hiccups, consistent belching and mild aerophagia; therefore, it is vital that you identify the main culprit(s) for you personally. Begin by getting rid of the simpler known causes for a couple of days and see if the symptoms lessen.


It is worth noting the following suggestions for how you should stop swallowing air. In keeping track of the results you’ll gain from avoiding a possible cause for several days, and reintroducing it, it’s possible to pin down why you’re excessively swallowing air and eliminate or reduce it.


Most importantly, if you have a severe case of aerophagia you ought to get medical advice from an expert. Most folks though will witness improvement with some of these easy changes ahead.


Consuming carbonated drinks, like acidic beer or soda, sends CO2 directly into the stomach (plus simple sugars, encouraging more intestinal bacteria). Give these a rest for a couple of days and check what effect it’ll have on your symptoms.


Drinking with straws, being in a rush and gulping or slurping down liquids, and consuming water from a fountain all are likely to introduce additional air into your stomach. When you drink, try to slow down. Drinking lots of liquid while consuming a meal also is worth avoiding as it’ll hamper proper digestion.


Smoking cigarettes, sucking on hard sweets, and chewing gum all can lead to swallowing excessive air. For some folks one of these probably will be a bit more difficult to give up, yet it definitely is worth it if your health is valued.

2 Babies Might Hiccup After Coughing or Crying


Babies might have the hiccups after crying or coughing. It’s common in infants in their first year. Within some cases, babies who have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) might be more susceptible to hiccups.


Some top pediatricians are of the opinion that baby hiccups usually are triggered by feeding (formula, breast, or other food sources) or by drops in temperature which triggers the infant to get cold. A hiccup is considered to be harmless unless it proves persistent enough to interfere with routine sleeping and feeding. Infants who have GERD might usually hiccup more frequently, which is accompanied by irritability, coughing, and spitting up.


This type of behavior ought to be mentioned to your doctor as should extremely frequent uncontrollable hiccup bouts, especially after age one. Even though infant hiccups are rarely the indication of a more severe underlying clinical condition, it’ll never do any harm to be careful. How do you bring a bout of infant hiccups to an end? Ethnic cultural traditions and old wives’ tales provide a ton of methods which date back centuries.


Causing an unexpected surprise by popping an inflated paper bag or dropping a cool key down a sufferer’s back are merely a part of folk law. Definitely roughly handling a baby or slapping an infant on the back in any way never is suggested. However, a soft back rub, sip of water or offering something to suck on, might do the trick. Usually, hiccups bother a parent more than a child, even though they might cause distress to the infant while feeding. Changing a baby’s position and getting them to relax or burp might help.



Consuming alcoholic beverages may cause your stomach to expand, particularly if they’re carbonated alcoholic drinks such as champagne, beer, and several mixed drinks. These beverages also can trigger stomach acid to rise up inside your esophagus to produce hiccups, and lead to irritation of the nerve which controls your diaphragm.


There is an abundance of ways to tell if you have overdone it on the beverages — calling all your friends, slurring your speech, etc. However, one of the most irritating, surefire indications that you have had too many? Hiccupping. Why will you hiccup after you drink too much? During some point or another, every one of us has succumbed to those dreaded hiccups after way too many beers — and just as it turns out, there is a certain reason for that.


According to Shape, consuming too many alcoholic beverages makes you especially susceptible to hiccups because it’ll promote acid reflux, and may aggravate your esophagus. It also can exacerbate the vagus nerve that then triggers those annoying non-stop hiccupping bouts. Consuming vast quantities of carbonated alcohol, such as champagne, beer, and additional bubbly products, also is further annoying, as you are swallowing additional air.


It isn’t just alcohol which produces this reaction — consuming a big meal which leaves you too full, consuming ultra-hot drinks, and spans of intense emotional stress may do the same. And as for attempting to stop the hiccups? If you are drinking, it’s possible to try to avoid carbonated beverages, and instead, opt for wine.




Most hiccup cases only last a couple of minutes to a couple of hours, yet in rare instances they might last for days — or years. Hiccups which last for over 48 hours are well-known as persistent hiccups. The ones which last for over a month are referred to as intractable hiccups.


If you suffer hiccups which last longer than two days, you ought to see a doctor to rule out a possibly severe underlying condition. Within serious cases, CPAP treatments (continuous positive airway pressure) have been utilized. It’s because boosting the air pressure inside the throat might assist in relieving hiccups, which is the reason why the old saying that holding your breath cures them is fairly true.

As a matter of fact, in the instance of the man who had hiccups for one year, it was CPAP treatment which eventually cured him. According to research:

  • Intrathoracic pressure elevation that is CPAP induced might prevent all pressure drop that is responsible for hiccups, therefor resulting in either decreased hiccup frequency or full resolution.
  • The common practice of holding your breath with the nose and mouth closed also may relieve hiccups through a likewise mechanism.
  • Elevating carbon dioxide levels in the body also may aid in stopping hiccups, which is the reason why folks occasionally try to breathe into a paper bag.

Pretty much any activity that is able to interrupt the hiccup reflex — such as a good scare, drinking water upside down or being tickled — also may be effective, even though none of those are backed by science.