Have you ever wondered what causes hiccups? A number of factors can cause these involuntary and irritating contractions of your diaphragm.
Did you know that a man named Charles Osborne had the worst case of hiccups in the world? He started hiccupping in 1922 and only stopped in 1990. Of course, most cases of hiccups are not so drastic, but nevertheless, hiccups can be quite annoying.
But what causes hiccups in the first place? As it turns out, a variety of factors can cause this phenomenon to start up. Hiccups can also last for a short time before going away on their own while some cases may last for days or even weeks.
Only in very rare circumstances such as the case mentioned above can hiccups last years. Fortunately, hiccups are not dangerous even in prolonged circumstances, although they can be frustrating to deal with. If you often get hiccups and ask yourself, “Why do hiccups happen?” keep reading and find your answers below.
What Are Hiccups Exactly?
Hiccups are a type of involuntary contraction of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is an important muscle that plays a large part in breathing. Without it, you would not be able to breathe in and out.
The diaphragm is a large, flat muscle that lays horizontally beneath your lungs. It separates your chest from your abdomen.
When you exhale air out of your lungs, the diaphragm will curve upward against your lungs. When you inhale and your lungs fill with air, the lungs will push the diaphragm downward so it becomes flat again.
Your diaphragm is rich with nerves. Your vocal cords (and the rest of your throat, for that matter) are also enriched with nerves. When you hiccup, there is a reaction that involves your diaphragm and your vocal cords.
That’s the reason why you make a sound when you hiccup.
When you hiccup, not only does your diaphragm contract but your vocal cords contract as well. When this happens, your vocal cords will make a sound but the sound will be cut short by the vocal cords closing on themselves.
Once you get a case of the hiccups, it can be hard, if not impossible, to control them. That’s because the contractions of your diaphragm and vocal cords become completely involuntary. There isn’t any way in which you can take control of your diaphragm and get it to stop contracting.
Any guide to hiccups (including this one) will tell you that hiccups only last a few minutes. Then, your diaphragm should relax on its own and the hiccups should stop. There are also a few things you can do to stop hiccups such as suck on ahiccup-stopping lollipop.
But what are the reasons for hiccups anyway and is there a way to prevent them?
Eating Too Quickly
Most of thereasons for hiccupping are quite simple and benign. Hiccups usually start when there is some kind of irritation of the diaphragm. Once the diaphragm becomes irritated, the nerves surrounding it will tell the diaphragm to contract.
These contractions act to reset the diaphragm in a way. The diaphragm may become irritated by physical or emotional factors. Some causes may make the hiccups last longer than others.
Eating too quickly is one of the most common causes of hiccups. But what does eating too quickly have to do with the diaphragm, a muscle that has nothing to do with eating or digesting? Keep in mind that the diaphragm is a large muscle that spans the width of your chest.
Your esophagus (the tube that delivers food from your mouth to your stomach) runs perpendicular to the diaphragm. It runs straight down into your stomach and passes by the diaphragm in the process. When you eat too quickly, you are usually not chewing your food that much.
As a result, large chunks of food will slide down your esophagus past your diaphragm. The movement and pressure of these chunks may irritate your diaphragm. Besides that, when you eat too quickly, you will often inhale large quantities of air between bites.
When this happens, you are also irritating your lungs which are right next to the diaphragm. You may even swallow some of that air as you’re eating. All of these factors will cause your diaphragm to become irritated.
As a result, there is a good chance that you will start to hiccup if you attempt to eat at a fast pace. On the other hand, if you slow down, chew your food, and gulp down air, you won’t have to worry all that much about hiccups.
Drinking Carbonated Drinks or Alcohol
You may have seen in movies or cartoons that people tend to hiccup when they’re drunk. This is actually true and not just something that you only see in movies. That’s because alcohol can be quite irritating to the diaphragm and the rest of your body.
The first thing you should know is that if your stomach becomes distended in any way, there is a good chance that you will get a case of hiccups. That’s because when your stomach expands and becomes distended, it will irritate the diaphragm as a result. This is why eating too much and too fast at one time can cause hiccups.
When you swallow air, the air may cause your stomach to distend, press on the diaphragm, and cause hiccups. Some forms of alcohol such as beer are carbonated and can add a lot of air to your stomach. Of course, this will cause your stomach to become distended and you may develop hiccups.
But that’s not all.
When you consume large amounts of alcohol, there is a good chance that the alcohol will start to irritate your stomach. As a result, your stomach will start to produce excess acid. In some cases, this may lead to acid reflux which is when your stomach acid splashes up into your esophagus, a condition known commonly as heartburn.
Acid reflux can also irritate the diaphragm and cause hiccups. Carbonated beverages like soft drinks work much in the same way. The bubbles in these drinks add excess air to your stomach.
Sugary, carbonated drinks also tend to irritate the stomach lining over time which can lead to acid reflux. All of these factors come into play when it comes to the development of hiccups. By drinking these beverages in moderation, you can avoid hiccups.
Stress and Fear
What many people don’t know is that emotional factors like stress are equally likely to cause hiccups as physical factors. Specifically, it is the phrenic nerve that innervates the diaphragm. This nerve is usually responsible for the control of one’s breathing.
When you are stressed or suddenly afraid, there is a change in your breathing, and this change can irritate your diaphragm. As a result, the muscle will start to spasm and you will start to hiccup. There are many emotional triggers that may cause hiccups to start.
For example, if something suddenly scares you, you may start hiccoughing. Or, if you are under intense stress, this may also be a trigger. You may even develop a case of hiccups if you become very happy or excited.
When you are under stress, your whole body will become tense and you will want to clench your muscles. It is no surprise that your diaphragm will start to spasm as well when experiencing particularly stressful circumstances. Hiccups that result from emotional factors tend to be very short-lived.
All you need to do to get rid of them is take a moment to calm down. Controlling your breathing is a good way to accomplish this. By taking long, deep breaths, you will not only be able to relax your diaphragm but your whole body as well.
Once you are no longer stressed or afraid, the hiccups should be gone. On the off chance that your hiccups don’t go away after calming down, there are still a few things you can do to solve the problem. Sometimes, getting scared again can make your hiccups vanish.
Others believe that chugging water or holding your breath may also help. This is not to mention that hiccup-stopping lollipops are also helpful.
What Causes Hiccups?
What causes hiccups exactly? There are actually many triggers for hiccups. One of the most common causes is eating too fast.
When you eat too fast, your stomach becomes distended with food and air and irritates the diaphragm as a result. Drinking too many carbonated drinks or too much alcohol also distends the stomach and can cause hiccups. Finally, emotional factors like stress and fear can trigger hiccups in some people.
If you want to know more about hiccups and the solution to hiccups, contact us here.