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Why Do We Experience Hiccups?

By Satabdi MazmumdarSeptember 14, 2022
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Scientific Reasons Behind Hiccups

Hiccups can be annoying or funny. Well, if it is happening for an hour, it will surely be quite annoying to you. Someone laughing and spilling his juice due to a hiccup is hilarious but try hiccupping for 27 months and 12 hours a day. Yes. Christopher Sands experienced such an anomalous development from 2007 to 2009. Charles Osborne holds the world record of hiccupping for 68 years straight. Imagine that happening!

It is a natural phenomenon or a response in the human body. Well, what is the reason behind hiccupping? In this article, let us discuss what a hiccup is first and then proceed to its scientific reasons.

What is a Hiccup?

According to the physiological explanation, the science behind ingesting a large volume of air involuntarily is called a hiccup. This happens due to the sudden movement of the diaphragm causes hiccupping.

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle responsible for the movement of the lungs. This is the source of all hiccups we have experienced. We don’t even control the diaphragm and its movement is based on the rhythm of breathing. Its mechanism is to pull the lungs causing a partial vacuum for inhalation of air and vice versa.

On regular use, the diaphragm becomes irritated. It then starts jerking or twitching on its own without our control. This jerking or twitching of this strong muscle causes hiccups. We make hic sounds at a regular interval. The air rushing inside our lings due to such movement of the diaphragm hits the voice box causing the hiccup sound.

Hiccups and Their Reasons

Hiccups and Their Reasons

The Science Behind Hiccups

As mentioned earlier, the diaphragm is a dome-shaped strong muscle that controls the volume of the lungs and manages our breathing rhythm. We do not possess the ability to control the contraction and relaxation movement of this muscle. Hence, the process of breathing continues involuntarily even when we are sleeping.

The occurrence of hiccups begins when this muscle starts to twitch or contract involuntarily and sharply. This sudden contraction causes our lungs to increase in size. Due to the sudden increase in the volume of lungs, we have to intake air. The gust of air entering the lungs hit the voice box resulting in a hiccup sound. This is why does hiccups occur.

Why Do We Have Hiccups?

Now that we know the scientific reason behind hiccups, what do you think excites the diaphragm to cause hiccups? What are the actual stimuli that result in such a response? Here is a list of possible reasons given by the physiology experts.

1. Lack of Oxygen in The Muscles

Like the heart muscles, the diaphragm is working day in and day out to keep us breathing. It is obvious that the muscle will sometimes get tired. It might happen that the lack of oxygen can result in its twitching or sudden contraction. We have not experienced any cramping but this can be the reason behind the hiccup.

2. Drinking Alcohol and Carbonated Beverages

A proven reason for hiccups is the excessive consumption of carbonated beverages and alcohol. Carbonated beverages contain high sugar. It means the absorption of sugar will need more water. The blood loses its volume due to the dilution, absorption, and assimilation of sugar in carbonated beverages. In the same way, drinking alcohol has been witnessed resulting in hiccupping. The cause may be the same. Our body needs water to flush out alcohol from the digestive system. It might reduce the blood volume and causes the diaphragm to twitch constantly.

3. Spicy Food or Large Meals

Large meals, spicy food, and overeating can be the reason behind the development of hiccups. The stress from your stomach can cause hiccups when it irritates the diaphragm above it.

4. Emotional Stress

Another cause of hiccups is emotional stress. The constant emotional stress might be related to the occurrence of hiccups. There is no evidence based on this assumption to be proved but people with emotional stress have witnessed the development of hiccups.

5. Excitement

It has also been found that people when exposed to sudden excitement may develop hiccups. The excitement can be related to anything. Whether you are receiving a question paper at the examination hall or being startled, you can develop hiccups.

6. Sudden Unnecessary Swallowing Air

This reason might sound funny but an individual can develop hiccups if swallows a sudden gust of air while enjoying a popsicle or a candy. Hiccups can also develop when someone is chewing gum and swallowing more than the required amount of air.

7. Physiological Disorders

The above reasons explain how hiccups happen commonly. In other cases, acute or chronic physiological disorders can cause hiccups. Disorders related to the central nervous system such as meningitis, encephalitis, stroke, multiple sclerosis, tumours, traumatic brain injury, etc can cause hiccups as symptoms.

Complications From Hiccups

We now know the scientific reason for hiccups and the probable causes behind them. Incessant hiccupping can cause a lot of issues related to sleep and emotions. A person suffering from hiccups will not be able to get proper rest. Hence, psychological disorders along with emotional stress will appear.

How to Get Rid of Hiccups?

Hiccups often happen when our food canal ingests food and the air canal inhaling air coincide. In this case, holding your breath to let the food pass can be a good way to get rid of hiccups. Sudden mental harmless shocks such as surprises can stop hiccups. Actually, hiccups recede on their own. These tricks do not have any scientific evidence but can be useful.


This is all about hiccups and the reasons behind them. Most solutions are mere distractions that enable us to stop hiccupping. The effectiveness is not proved yet. Now, you can explain the science behind hiccupping and the possible tricks to cure it.