Have you ever wondered what causes hiccups, and what first aid remedy can be done about them? Granted, it is very easy to get irritated by hiccup sounds every now and then. Medically, hiccups are referred to as hiccoughs, and are often classified into three broad sections:
i) Normal hiccups
ii) Persistent hiccups, also referred to as protracted hiccups
iii) Intractable hiccups.
Normal hiccups do not require a definition as they will typically occur once in a while, and sometimes over a very long period of time. Persistent or protracted hiccups are characterized by lasting for a period of more than 2 days but less than 30 days. Intractable hiccups on the other hand, proceed for more than 30 days, certainly interfering with normal daily activities. What then causes hiccups?
Initially, it was thought that hiccups were caused by twitching of the diaphragm muscles. These are muscles that create a separation between the thorax and the cavity within the abdomen. What’s more, these muscles play a key role in proper breathing. This however, was shown not to be the real cause of hiccups, thus creating a platform for additional research to be carried out. Below are the findings that show the occurrence of hiccups sequentially.
i) There is an unexpected contraction of the muscles involved in inhalation
ii) This is then followed by the closure of the vocal cords. It is this stage that produces the characteristic ‘hic’ sound.
iii) The top part of the mouth and the rear end of the tongue will then be elevated, leading to the typical burp that one feels when experiencing a hiccough. This upward movement, combined with the ‘hic’ sound, led to the term hiccup. It is during this stage that the diaphragm is subjected to contraction.
iv) If one is keen, they may also take note that the heart rate slows down significantly during a hiccup. This is attributed to the activation of the vagus nerve.
Does thus explain what causes hiccups? Granted, this does not shed light onto the exact cause of this condition, and the triggers of this complicated cascade of events, but there are a number of factors that predispose one to get hiccups. They include:
– Taking foods that are rich in spices
– Drastic temperatures within the digestive system and especially the stomach. This is common with individuals who take hot foods, only to follow it through with an ice cold beverage
– Fatigue as well as lack of proper nutrients.
A number of medical conditions have also been shown to make significant contribution to the causes hiccups. These include:
– Acid reflux where the contents of the stomach are poured back into the esophagus as is the case during a heartburn.
– When the phrenic nerve is irritated, it also becomes easy for an individual to experience hiccups.
While researchers are yet to adequately define what causes hiccups, it is important for individuals to note that hiccups serve no medical purpose, and are not of biological value to the human body. In the same breath, no cure has been invented yet, but avoiding triggers will go a long way in managing hiccups.