Hiccups seem rather mysterious. It’s even more puzzling because though it’s a reflex, it has no known physiologic benefit, unlike coughing and sneezing. We’ve all experienced hiccups and a lot of people believe a lot of things cure hiccups, but what really works?
Common Signs and Symptoms
When you hiccup, you may feel a bit of a tightening in your abdomen, your chest or throat. But mostly, you’ll hear the “hic” sound that happens when your trachea (windpipe) closes immediately after your diaphragm contracts.
We all have different hiccup rates but it stays consistent for each hiccup episode.
When hiccups last for more than forty-eight hours, then it is said to persistent and may affect your intake of both food and drinks. It will also affect your concentration and even conversations. This could eventually lead to insomnia, exhaustion, frustration and even potentially fatal consequences like aspiration pneumonia.
Causes and Risk Factors
For most people, hiccups only last for a short period and cease afterwards. They could happen at any point and may sometimes start for no reason at all. Below are a few causes :
• Swallowing air
• Sudden excitement
• A swollen stomach as a result of overeating or rushing food
• Drinking carbonated beverages
• Sudden emotional stress
• Consumption of alcohol
• Excess smoking
• A sudden change in stomach temperature
Persistent hiccups that last longer than forty-eight hours could be as a result of factors such as :
• Metabolic disorders
• Psychogenic disorders
• Gastrointestinal issues
• Central nervous system disorders
• Certain medications
For some people, persistent hiccups are due to GI issues, like acid reflux , bloating and heartburn, which can irritate the diaphragm.
Long-term hiccups may occur because of lesions between the pathway from the central nervous system to the phrenic nerve. This occurs mainly in diseases of the brain stem such as stroke, tumors, meningitis, encephalitis, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury.
Metabolic problems may also lead to persistent hiccups. Hiccups can be a sign of worsening kidney or liver function, for instance.
Research shows that long-term hiccups are more common in children, adult men and those with comorbid conditions. (6 )
How to Get Rid of Hiccups: 8 Natural Treatments
1. Stimulate the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve runs from the brain to the stomach. According to researchers, irritations to this nerve can lead to hiccups so you could try reseting the nerve so the hiccups disappear. You could irritate the pharynx and thus, stimulate the nerve by sipping cold water, eating a spoonful of raw honey mixed with warm water or chewing on a lemon.
2. Relax your Diaphragm
Another way to help get rid of the hiccups is to relax your diaphragm so that the spasms stop. A way to achieve this is to cause the body to carbon dioxide. Two do this, breathe into a paper bag or hold your breath for a few seconds.
Breathing into a paper bag increases the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the blood and makes the diaphragm contact a lot more deeply in order to bring in more oxygen. This will help to get rid of hiccups. Simply take a deep breath into a small paper bag, but stop if you start feeling lightheaded.
3. Pull Your Knees to Your Chest
Doing this will get your chest compressed and serve as a counter-irritation to the diaphragm and may help to stop the contractions that cause hiccups. You could also try to lean forward to compress your chest. Take deep breaths in and out as you compress your chest and try to reset signals that could be responsible for the spasms in your diaphragm.
4. Try the Valsalva Maneuver
The Valsalva maneuver is when you blow air out of your lungs while holding your nose and mouth. This is used in boosting the tone of your vagus nerve and the pressure in the throat, sinuses and inner ear. Some use this technique to ha dle arrhythmia, but it could help get rid of hiccups because it reset the signals sent by the vagus nerve.
To do the valsalva maneuver, breathe forcefully out for fifteen seconds. Make sure your mouth stays closed while you pinch your nose too. This puts a pressure on your nasal sinuses that will help stimulate the vagus nerve.
5. Use Peppermint Oil
Using peppermint essential oil could stop hiccups. It stimulates belching by relaxing the lower oesophageal sphincter. By placing one drop on the roof of your mouth, you’re getting your vagus nerve stimulated which will cause you to belch and stop contractions that cause hiccups. Dilute the peppermint oil with grapeseed or coconut oil before taking it in.
6. Try an Acid Reflux Diet
Hiccups that are persistent could be a common acid reflux symptom. Asides from hiccups, you could also be experiencing heartburn, flatulence, a bitter taste in your mouth, bad breath, burping, dry mouth, etc.
Most studies done on GERD and acid reflux points to a diet as a key factor. Your body may be trying to alert you to a problem in your digestive test. Basically, you should work on slowing down while eating, eating small meals, and chewing your food well throughout the day instead of three huge meals.
If you’re trying to get rid of hiccups by reducing your acid reflux, try sticking to unprocessed organic foods free from GMOs as much as possible.
Boost your fiber intake to support healthy bacteria in your gut and eat lots of probiotic foods. You could also reduce your intake of grains, especially when refined, reduce sugar consumption and eat high-quality protein. Also, reduce your intake of refined vegetable oils, like canola oil. Some folks also find that taking carbonated drinks, spicy foods or alcohol could cause hiccups, so try to minimize these foods and diet.
Below are foods that can get rid of hiccups caused by acid reflux :
• Leafy greens
• Free-range chicken
• Grass-fed beef
• Bone broth
• Coconut oil
• Olive oil
• Apple cider vinegar
• Aloe vera
7. Reduce Stress
Stress is a common cause of short term hiccups. The next time you experience hiccups, think of how you’re feeling at that point and whether stress is playing a role or not, in the development of your hiccups.
If you find that the hiccups come when you’re stressed, try practicing stress relievers every day. These include yoga, meditation and prayer, exercising, spending more time in nature, stress reducing oils like Roman chamomile and lavender.
8. Try Acupuncture
A few studies have shown that it is possible for acupuncture to effectively treat persistent hiccups, even when conventional treatment doesn’t work.
This method is usually employed to stimulate or irritate the nerves responsible for hiccups. Even though there are no controlled studies involving acupuncture and hiccups, some folks have been able to cease their long-term hiccups with this treatment, so it might be worth the try.