Hiccups, though often annoying for the hiccuper and distracting for those around them, are nothing more than a reflex. The vagus nerve runs from the brain all the way down to the abdomen.
When this sensitive nerve or one of its branches gets irritated, it triggers the firing of the phrenic nerve. The phrenic nerve is located under the diaphragm, the muscle which enables breathing. The spasm of the phrenic nerve results in a spasm of the diaphragm, creating the all too recognizable sound of the hiccup.
In rare cases, hiccups can be the result of digestive disorders or diseases that continuously irritate the phrenic nerve. But in most cases hiccups are triggered by eating or drinking too quickly and often are nothing to worry about.
While everyone has their own method for curing a case of the hiccups, there are a few tried and true home remedies you can play with the next time an annoying case sneaks up on you.
1. Hold your breath. Excess carbon dioxide is believed to relax the diaphragm muscle causing hiccups to cease. Another theory is that the nervous system becomes more concerned with ridding the body of carbon dioxide that it halts the excessive spasming of the phrenic nerve and diaphragm and instead focuses on trying to breath properly again. A similar result occurs from taking deep breaths in a brown paper bag.
2. Take a spoonful of sugar. Some theorize that the graininess of sugar irritates the esophagus enough that it causes the phrenic nerve to cease spasming. This will be the only time we ever recommend you consume sugar (and frankly, you should probably make this one a ‘last resort’).
3. Smack your lips on some peanut butter. A big spoon of sticky peanut butter will disrupt your breathing pattern enough to cause the spasming nerves to settle.
4. Sip something spicy. In theory, if your brain has something else to focus on, it will forget about your spasming diaphragm. A gulp of hot sauce may just be enough to focus your brain’s attention on other matters such as putting out the fire in your belly!
5. Try a little tickle. Yes, you could have someone sit and tickle you, which would certainly alter your breathing patterns, but tickling your vagus nerve may be easier. A little honey or some dill seeds have this tickling effect and can help halt the chain reaction leading to a case of hiccups.
-The Alternative Daily