This nemesis is known to all of us, and haunts us throughout our lives. It causes no severe problems, but is a constant nagging problem, and can happen at the worst of times. But what causes the hiccups? And what are the ways we can fight it? We would like to showcase some of the old methods, and shed light on some of the new ones as well.
The hiccups, know in medical terminology as singultus, is caused by the involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. The characteristic noise that is made is a result of air rushing into the lungs, and the esophagus shutting off the air flow. It does not have any negative side effects as we know it, but it is also of no use to the body either. But then how did it evolve?
Some scientists claim that the hiccups are a vestigial remain of an ancient reflex, as a similar reflex keeps water out of the lungs of amphibious creatures. Some others theorize that the reflex exists in order to remove food debris that are stuck in the throat. The diaphragm, once clenched, creates a vacuum in the chest cavity, and this causes the esophagus to swallow. Yet another theory is that the hiccups cause embryos in the womb to strengthen their breathing apparatus.
There are numerous causes of the hiccups. It can be caused by burping, crying, laughing, inhalation of smoke, foohiccups, d that is too hot or too spicy, drinking alcohol, or simply talking too much. Causes can also be vitamin deficiency, pressure on the nerves in the diaphragm, kidney issues, tumours or the imbalance of ions in the system. All of these reasons can be simplified into two main factors, the workings of two specific nerves in the brain, the vagus nerve, and the language-pharyngeal nerve. It follows the esophagus for a while, and then spreads into the lining of the stomach. This is why the hiccups can start if you eat too much. But they can be caused by the central nervous system as well: in this case stress, excitement, and the aforementioned laughing and crying can all cause the hiccups. Patients who are being treated with chemotherapy have a 30% higher risk of developing hiccups, says the American Cancer Society.
I am sure you have heard a plethora of solutions to the problem of hiccups, with varying degrees of usefulness. The traditional methods can be divided into three categories: psychosomatic methods which rely on distractions and calming methods, then there are methods that rely on decreasing the sensations in the esophagus, and breathing techniques. These work because the CO2 amount decreases in the blood, therefore the balance of the gases in the blood rectifies itself. This will cause respiratory acidosis, specifically in the lung stack next to the esophagus. This will cause the veins to dilate, which leads to decreased nerve action, which in turn calms the diaphragm.
Holding your breath is the penultimate cure for the hiccups, as well as drinking cold water or milk, or you can eat dry bread, or swallow a piece of ice. You can also do stretches, drink lemon juice, hug your knees, or you can ask a friend to scare or tickle you as well.
There are two new methods which definitely are worth a mention. Ben Lamberton, a teacher from London, who retired peacefully. One day he began to have the hiccups, but he did not mind, thinking it will go away soon. It did not, and after ten days, his doctors were perplexed. His daughter finally dragged him to a physiotherapist, who eventually cured him. How? Through the power of love. The physiotherapist gave the old man a hug, who was so surprised by this sudden expression of emotion that he forgot to hiccup altogether. Sounds a lot better than your friends scaring the bejeesus out of you, doesn’t it?
The second method is based on scientific evidence, and it comes from the brilliant mind of a teenage girl. Mallory Kievman, a 13 year old American high school student suffers form the hiccups regularly, and could not find a proper cure. Thus she did what any great mind in science would do, she began to experiment, and thus did she come up with a concoction that finally cured her of her ills. She made a lollipop out of sugar and apple vinegar, and by licking it, you over stimulate the nerves, which causes a rapid decline in hiccuping. Mallory’s invention raised many an eyebrow, and she won some science pageants. The University Of Connecticut also took interest, and delegated a research team to research the concoction. It ended up being os good that it is now patented, and this summer will see the first instance of the sales of “Hiccupops” in the USA.
The hiccups usually go away on their own. If they do not, feel free to use any of the methods that have been mentioned above. If the hiccups do not go away, even after trying these methods, you should check in with a doctor, as the hiccups can be a symptom of a serious illness. Bronchitis, pleurisy, reflux disorders, diseases of the liver and diabetes all have frequent uncontrollable hiccups as a symptom. But before panicking, ask someone to hug you: not only will the hiccups go away, but some well needed relief can also be gotten from such an event.
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