When You Can't Stop The Hiccups

In rare cases, chronic hiccupping may be a symptom of a more serious health problem. Possibilities include infection; renal (kidney) failure; liver disease; cancer, including lung cancer; nervous system or abdominal problems, such as ulcers; and even heart attacks. Virtually anything that affects the head, chest, or abdomen can be implicated. A common bout of hiccups usually lasts no more than an hour, and the hiccups occur at a rhythmic interval of about every 30 seconds. It's time to see a doctor if the hiccups continue with frequency for much more than an hour, keep you awake at night, or don't respond to home remedies. In some cases, a physician will prescribe antacids or a sedative to help calm the digestive system. And in instances of severe, nonstop hiccuping, surgery may be performed to cut the phrenic nerve's link to the diaphragm in order to stop the spasms.

Hiccups are little more than a reflex, like the way your knee jerks when a doctor taps it with a hammer. They result when the vagus nerve or one of its branches, which runs from the brain to the abdomen, is irritated. And the vagus lets you know by tweaking the phrenic nerve, which leads to the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps you breathe. The diaphragm then spasms, causing the "hic" sound true to the condition's name.

Experts say hiccups are most often a reaction to common digestive disturbances. And luckily, they're usually more a nuisance than anything else. But what about the times when we seem to hiccup for no apparent reason? No one knows for sure why these seemingly innocuous bouts occur. What experts do know is that even infants hiccup, and the reflex continues, about three to five times a year, throughout life.

The home remedies used to stop a hiccupping bout are believed to work on two principles. Some basically rely on overstimulating the vagus nerve. Like all nerves, it processes a variety of sensations, ranging from temperature to taste. One way to stifle hiccups is to overwhelm the vagus nerve with another sensation; in turn, the vagus nerve signals the brain that more important matters have arisen, so it's time to knock off the hiccupping.

Other methods, which interfere with breathing, increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood, probably causing the body to become more concerned with getting rid of the carbon dioxide than making hiccups. In the next section, we will review some tried-and-true home remedies from both camps.

For more information about home remedy treatments to combat an assortment of ailments, visit the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.