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Surprising Science

How to Cure Your Hiccups

Hiccups occur when your diaphragm contracts suddenly, likely due to a lack of CO2 in your system. Restoring that carbon dioxide is the key to regaining control.

Everyone has their hiccups; sometimes literally.

Jenna Birch over at Today has a feature up on the site dissecting one of life’s most pressing (and certainly one its most irritating) mysteries: what’s up with those darn hiccups? She asked Dr. Andrea Paul of to explain the begrudging belts of bloated air abd why they’re so relentlessly burdensome.

Paul explains that hiccups are a reaction of the diaphragm that causes sudden contractions through which air is rapidly sucked in.  That air causes the vocal cord to snap shut, thus the onomatopoeic “hiccup.” It takes time for the body to regain its preferred equilibrium, thus the repetition.

To cure your hiccups, Paul says you need to increase the level of CO2 in your bloodstream. The age-old suggestions apply here: hold your breath, drink a glass of water, or breathe into a paper bag. Paul also suggests some quick exercises like jogging in place or performing jumping jacks:

“Taking a deep breath in and holding it will keep you from ridding your body of the carbon dioxide waste; each time you breathe into a paper bag, your body is taking back in the CO2 you just exhauled; and a brief bout of exercise works because, as you take in more oxygen and it combines with other nutrients in your body for energy, your body produces more CO2 as a result.”

Preventing hiccups is a tall order; no one is quite sure of their exact cause. Paul recommends avoiding activities that cause you to bloat or inhale air too quickly. Other links suggest that stress and anxiety could also be causes.

So much of our relationship to hiccups is psychological. We view them as a mysterious affliction with no set cure. Understanding how they happen should at least help you treat your hiccups the next time they erupt at work… or at a party… or at your wedding.

For more on what causes hiccups, read the whole article at Today

Photo credit: Emin Ozkan / Shutterstock


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