You tumble to the ground, get up and dust yourself off, and notice you've developed the hiccups. This frustrating condition doesn't seem to want to disappear, and it won't...for the next 68 years. That's what happened to Guinness World Record holder Charles Osborne, whose unexpected fall destroyed a small area in his brain that would have stopped his hiccup response.
In other words, you should be grateful that most of us have hiccups that go away in minutes or hours on their own!
If you're a little less lucky, you might have reoccurring or chronic hiccups that pop up with other conditions. This is especially true if you struggle with GERD.
Hiccups and heartburn can often go hand in hand. Worse, hiccups can have major side effects if they become chronic. Let's take a look at everything to know about hiccups and acid reflux.
What Happens When You Get Hiccups?
Hiccups happen because of one key body part: your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a wall of muscle separating your chest and abdominal cavities. It plays a huge role in your breathing.
Hiccups occur when the diaphragm spasms. These sudden, involuntary contractions produce a tightening sensation and cause the vocal cords to close. When this happens, we produce the "hic" sound that this condition is known for.
Most of the time, hiccups last a few minutes at a time. In rare cases, however, hiccups can last for hours or days.
If this happens, they can disrupt a person's eating habits and sleep cycle. As a result, weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, and fatigue are common side effects of chronic hiccups. In some cases, hiccups can even cause breathing issues.
The Most Common Causes of Hiccups
It can be hard to pinpoint the exact cause of your hiccups, but there are a few common culprits.
Foods and Drinks
Drinking alcohol or carbonated beverages can increase your risk of hiccups.
Eating too much or eating too fast can also increase your risk. Spicy foods, in particular, can cause hiccups, as can eating something cold right after you've eaten something hot.
Emotion and Breath Disruption
Sudden excitement, surprise, or stress that causes you to swallow air may cause hiccups as well. This may be a result of the emotion itself, or it may be a result of an involuntary gasp of breath.
Things like chewing gum can also disrupt your breathing, making you more likely to experience hiccups.
More rarely, acid reflux can cause hiccups. This can happen when heartburn irritates the diaphragm, causing it to contract.
In addition, chronic GERD may make you more likely to develop hiccups.
The burning sensation associated with acid reflux happens because stomach acid has backed up into your esophagus. This can irritate the vagus or phrenic nerves, which connect with the diaphragm. If you've suffered from GERD for a long period, these nerves may even get damaged, which can cause further irritation.
If you notice that your hiccups come back often, or that they're beginning to affect your life, your acid reflux may be to blame. Treating your GERD can not only help you lower your risk of developing hiccups but also your risk of nerve damage.
How Can You Treat Hiccups?
As mentioned above, hiccups are often a temporary condition. For most people, hiccups will go away on their own within a few minutes without any special treatment.
At-home remedies can sometimes help.
Several tried and tested methods work by temporarily disrupting the respiratory system.
One of the most common is holding your breath. To do this, inhale and hold your breath for 30 seconds, repeating as necessary.
Measured breathing may also help. Take a slow breath in while counting to five, then let it out while counting to five.
The Valasava maneuver is another good trick. To do this, pinch your nose and keep your mouth closed while trying to breathe out.
Adjusting your posture may help relax your diaphragm. Bring your knees to your chest and hug them to put pressure on this muscle.
Some remedies work by stimulating your vagus or phrenic nerves. Drinking ice-cold water or sucking on an ice cube may "shock" the nerve out of causing contractions. Sucking on a lemon or putting a pinch of sugar on your tongue may work in the same way.
Preventing GERD-Related Hiccups
Many of the natural lifestyle changes that prevent acid reflux can also help you prevent hiccups.
Make sure you don't eat or drink too much or too fast, for example. Eating smaller meals throughout the day may help. Avoid carbonated beverages and alcohol as well.
Managing your stress can also reduce your risk of hiccups, though this can be easier said than done! Avoiding high levels of fear or excitement is also a good idea.
Hiccups and Heartburn: When to See a Doctor
As we've explained above, most cases of hiccups disappear on their own after a short time. If your hiccups last for days, it's time to see a doctor.
Unfortunately, because chronic hiccups are so uncommon, research about their treatment is limited. However, your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to make your hiccups stop. They will often choose drugs that help address muscle spasms.
If your hiccups are happening due to GERD, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your heartburn. Managing your GERD may be enough to prevent hiccups from reoccurring in the future.
Chronic hiccups may also be a warning sign of more serious conditions:
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Esophageal problems, including blockages and tumors
- Nerve or brain injuries
- Fluid in the lungs
- High blood sugar
Certain chemotherapy drugs may also increase your risk of developing hiccups.
If you're not sure whether acid reflux or another condition is causing the problem, always talk to a medical professional.
Start Managing Your Heartburn Today
If you're struggling with hiccups and heartburn, it's always a good idea to seek medical help. Though hiccups may seem minor, their causes and side effects can be concerning.
To better manage your acid reflux, be sure to keep GerdLi in mind. Natural heartburn relief is only a click away, with fast shipping to boot! Get yours here.