The Real Reason You Get The Hiccups After Eating

Everyone gets the hiccups from time to time. They occur when the diaphragm, a muscle that is situated between the lungs and stomach, becomes irritated, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This results in repeated spasms of the diaphragm coupled with a "hic" sound from the closing of the vocal cords. Hiccups are very common, usually harmless, and can happen to people of all ages.

It's not clear why people get the hiccups, and they can start and stop for no obvious reason (via MedlinePlus). Still, some common triggers that can irritate the diaphragm and lead to hiccups include: eating too quickly, drinking alcohol or carbonated beverages, and eating hot or spicy foods. A stomach full of too much food or air, sudden changes in temperature, smoking cigarettes, and heightened emotions, such as excitement or stress, can also bring on the hiccups, according to Harvard Health Publishing

Hiccups may be an annoyance but they will typically go away after a short time. However, hiccups that don't go away within a few days are called "persistent" hiccups. In rare cases, hiccups may last for a few months and are referred to as "intractable." These long-lasting hiccups are usually caused by an underlying health condition, such as GERD, bowel diseases, cancer and tumors, stroke, pneumonia, pancreatitis, bladder irritation. Hiccups can also happen after surgery.

How to get rid of the hiccups

Mild cases of the hiccups will typically go away on their own within a few minutes. There are plenty of well-known strategies aimed at curing the hiccups that have been passed by word of mouth. While there is no scientific proof any of these suggestions work, they are not harmful to try. They include breathing into a paper bag, holding your breath, sipping a glass of cold water, and gargling ice water. Some people find biting a lemon, pulling gently on the tongue, rubbing the back of the neck, or having someone distract you by telling a joke or by scaring you to also be helpful.

Hiccups that last more than a few days or keep coming back may be a sign of a more serious health issue. If hiccups interfere with your ability to eat, drink, talk, or sleep or affect your overall quality of life, it's time to speak with a healthcare provider. If hiccups are caused by an underlying health condition, treating that condition should also help relieve the hiccups. Otherwise, they can be treated with medication, surgery, or other medical procedures.