If you’ve ever had the hiccups then you’ll know just how frustrating and upsetting this can be. Hiccups prevent you from being able to relax and rest and they can even get in the way of sleep. They can be embarrassing too – being only one step removed from belching – and they can be a real challenge to get rid of. Every time you think you’re done with hiccups, one comes back and ruins your optimism!
The good news is that there are ways to overcome hiccups, you just need to know what’s causing them in the first place and what you can do to address the problem at its root.
So, what does cause hiccups? This is actually caused by spasms in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that sits just below the lungs and which flexes in order to help us inhale and exhale. When this begins to spasm and twitch, it forces the air out the lungs and thus causes hiccups.
Various things can irritate the diaphragm and thus make hiccups more likely. These triggers include smoking, they include drinking too much alcohol, and even chewing gum can play a role. In many cases though, the spasms appear to come from nowhere and it is uncertain what led to them. Thus it’s hard to know for sure what might be causing your particular case.
At any rate, though, the methods you’ll employ to solve the problem will remain the same. So read on and let’s examine natural ways to eliminate hiccups once and for all!
1. Get a Fright
One of the most common tips you’ll find people share when you admit that you have hiccups is to let someone frighten you. You’ll probably have friends relishing in the opportunity to leap out at you at any opportunity.
So, does this work? Well, while there isn’t much evidence to confirm one way or another, what we do know is that getting frightened could work in theory. One reason is that fright can trigger activity in the sympathetic nervous system as you release adrenaline and rapidly enter ‘fight or flight’. This in turn can cause changes to the tone of your vagus nerve, which controls the diaphragm.
At the same time, getting frightened will often cause us to draw in air in a very sharp and sudden manner. This too can help to stop hiccups in its tracks.
2. Drink Backwards Out of a Cup
Another of the popular remedies often touted is that you should trick backward out of a cup. This is a fairly awkward thing to try and do and will generally involve holding the cup and then leaning forward while trying to drink from the top without pouring water everywhere.
This makes a mess but it does force you to breathe differently and at the same time the water will pass through your nasal passage which seems to stimulate… something. The swallowing motion also becomes exaggerated and some combination of these effects apparently will often cure your hiccups!
3. Swallow Three Times
Everyone has a method that they swear by and this is the one for me. My friend taught me this trick and now it’s what I recommend to everyone else. All it involves is trying to swallow quickly three times in a row without drinking any water.
It’s hard to do and thus it requires a lot of self-control which seems to help get the diaphragm and your breathing back under control.
4. Correct Breathing
Speaking of getting your breathing under control, another good way to potentially ease your diaphragm and regain control is to practice correct breathing – or ‘belly breathing’ as it is also known.
To do this, your first step is to relax the abdominal wall so that your gut hangs out. This will in turn cause the diaphragm to drop into the abdominal cavity, which opens up the bottom of the lungs and allows you to take in more air. Most of us forget this step and breathe by starting with the chest.
Now fill the lungs from the bottom and only once you’ve done that, expand the chest too. It’s hard to do while hiccupping but it requires concentration and control while also relaxing the sympathetic nervous system.
5. Take a Warm Bath
If you want to relax any muscle and calm it down, then applying heat is often the best way to do it. Run a warm bath and consider adding a little muscle soak and perhaps a drop or two of essential oils to inhale such as eucalyptus.
Now just relax in the water and close your eyes and the hiccups should subside.
6. Sniff Essential Oils
You can also benefit from the essential oils without the bath. Just burn some incense, some eucalyptus, or some bergamot. Any of these will have a calming effect on your body and will also make their way into the lungs where they can relax the muscles and help put you at ease.
If you are struggling to get to sleep because of the hiccups, then you can try rubbing a little of on your chest, and then you’ll inhale it as you go off to sleep.
Speaking of ways to get yourself off to sleep, you can also try using a little warm milk in order to combat the hiccups. This can work firstly because warm milk is once again soothing and relaxing.
Not only is the warmth itself good for this benefit, but so too is the magnesium content which has been shown to relax muscle tissue and calm the mind by reducing activity in the brain ready for sleep.
Warm milk is also something many of us associate with bedtime from our youth, which is just one more way it can get you ready for sleep!
Want to get even more benefits from that milk? Then mix in a little teaspoon of honey. This is a panacea for all kinds of different health problems and in the case of hiccups, it seems that honey is able to ‘tickle’ the vagus nerve.
Whether or not that is true is hard to say, but adding a little sweetness to your warm drink can only help with the relaxation and it has also been suggested to be a useful sleeping aid in its own right.
9. Hold Your Breath
We’ve suggested all kinds of different breathing techniques, as well as ways to trigger faster breathing such as being shocked or drinking upside down.
A more straightforward approach though is to simply hold your breath. This can help to once again cease movement in the lungs and thereby give your diaphragm a bit of a break to recover. What you will likely find is that you hiccup before you can do it for long, which is very frustrating. But try anyway…
10. Stand on Your Head
Another interesting option is to stand on your head. This turns the diaphragm over while also being a very useful distraction and completely changing the way you’ll breathe.
Okay, so it’s not the most convenient way to cure hiccups and if you do this in the office, you might get asked to step into the boss’ office. But if you’re desperate, then you may be willing to try anything…