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The Inconvenient Hiccup

Sometimes, you just can feel it about to happen. It starts from the pit of your stomach and works its way up your chest. It climbs up your esophagus and tickles your throat and that feeling of dread just sinks in as you—


Most of us are pretty familiar with this mysterious error message the human body gets occasionally. But what exactly is a hiccup?

The Hiccups, or a synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF) as it is scientifically known is the involuntary contraction (or spasm) of the diaphragm muscle, usually on the left side in 80 percent of cases. When this muscle spasms, it snaps your vocal cords shut and produces that telltale squeak. The diaphragm, the muscle that separates your chest cavity from your abdomen, plays an important part in how you breathe by contracting and expanding your chest, thus drawing air into your lungs. Of course, we don't think about how great this muscle is when we're hiccupping. All we're thinking about are all the folklore and supposed cures for the rather inconvenient hiccup, pun intended, that comes with having a diaphragm.

There are a lot of theories on what causes hiccups—being too excited or nervous, eating too quickly, eating spicy food, drinking alcohol—but there is no definitive cause to what is most likely going to get your diaphragm twitching. A hiccup can last anywhere from a couple minutes to a record breaking six decades. Most of the time, hiccups resolve on their own and do not require medical treatment. But anything beyond 48 hours may be the sign of an underlying cause.

So what does the science have to say as the best remedy?

Well, not all that much since there is no real scientific basis for hiccup cures, and home remedies are usually sufficient. We took an informal poll here at the Each Breath blog headquarters, and here's what some of our colleagues claim works for them:

  • Holding your breath while standing up
  • Controlling your breathing by taking small shallow breaths
  • Drinking a glass of water quickly or drinking from the far side of the glass upside down
  • Taking a bite out of a lemon
  • Placing a half teaspoon of sugar on the back of the tongue.
  • Eating a spoonful of peanut butter (or sunflower butter if peanuts and you don't go well together)
  • Eating something
  • Just waiting it out
  • Having someone scare you

Not one person had the same answer which just goes to show you: Hiccup cures are as unique as the people getting them and everyone responds differently. What's your remedy?

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Submitted by Michelle at: March 17, 2016
My favorite way: Take a deep, deep breath, hold as long as physically possible... then (before exhaling), chug a huge glass of water. Least favorite: Falling on my face. It worked.
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