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Woman holding breath for hiccups

What Causes Hiccups?

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What causes hiccups? It all starts with your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is the muscle located just below the lungs and heart and separates the abdomen from the chest. It plays an important role in breathing by pulling down air when you inhale and then relaxing so air can flow out.

Hiccups are a result of involuntary contractions of the diaphragm, which cause you to suck air down into your throat. When the sudden intake of air hits your voice box, your vocal chords close suddenly, causing the “Hic!” sound.

Common reasons you may be hiccuping:

  • Eating a large meal
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Drinking carbonated beverages
  • Strong emotions such as excitement or anxiety
  • Swallowing air while chewing gum or sucking on candy

Medications that may cause hiccups:

  • Acid reflux medications
  • Benzodiazepines such as anxiety and seizure medications
  • Levodopa and other common Parkinson’s medications
  • Ondansetron and other anti-nausea medicines

Hiccups are also common after undergoing surgeries that require anesthesia or procedures that involve your abdominal organs.

Hiccups can be caused by any number of things and are usually nothing to worry about. However, if they persist, they can be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition such as nerve damage, central nervous system disorders, metabolic disorders or drug use. If you ever find yourself with persistent hiccups, lasting more than three hours, affecting sleep patterns or interfering with eating, you may need to contact your doctor.

For your more run-of-the-mill hiccups, you can try a home remedy. Holding your breath is a common method thought to help the body retain carbon dioxide, which can stop the spasms of the diaphragm. Other methods are meant to stimulate the nerves that run from your brain to your stomach to help decrease hiccups. These home remedies include:

  • Drinking a glass of water
  • Pulling on your tongue
  • Biting a lemon
  • Gargling with water
  • Placing sugar on the back of your tongue.

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