Science Sortof Explains: Hiccups

Posted on August 17, 2008  Comments (8)

photo of Red Hot Pepper by John Hunter

I love spicy food (Indian food is my favorite food). In my garden, this year, I am growing some spicy peppers (which honestly I don’t really like on their own – I have discovered). Still I eat them some and I get the hiccups almost every time. So I finally used Google to find out why. That lead to – MayoClinic on Hiccups:

A hiccup is an unintentional contraction of your diaphragm – the muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen and plays an important role in breathing. This contraction makes your vocal cords close very briefly, which produces the sound of a hiccup.

Although there’s often no clear cause for a bout of hiccups, some factors that can trigger acute or transient hiccups include: Eating spicy food. Spicy food may cause irritation to the nerves that control normal contractions of your diaphragm.

I must say the internet is great. Still that is hardly a great explanation for me. I almost never get the hickups eating spicy meals but every time I eat a hot pepper on its own I seem to (which happens very quickly and then ends pretty quickly – under 5 seconds). I guess somehow the other food in my mouth disrupts the potential nerve irritation so that it doesn’t cause a hiccup? It doesn’t seem like the raw pepper is hotter (higher Scoville Heat Unit) than the food, so I don’t think it is just a matter of more “heat” causing the hiccups.

Photo by John Hunter, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike (see requirements for use).

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8 Responses to “Science Sortof Explains: Hiccups”

  1. Vikki Speil
    August 19th, 2008 @ 4:39 am

    This is really interesting as I quite regularly get hiccups – although it is, to be said, usually after a beer or two, or some other kind of fizzy beverage. What do you think about hiccup cures though – as a child I was told that eating a spoonful of sugar, someone making you jump, drinking a beverage from the opposite side of a cup AND hiccuping on demand!! I quite often found the latter works, although I think this has more to do with concentration . . .

  2. Richard
    August 21st, 2008 @ 8:29 pm

    Wow… i never knew peppers could cause hiccups. I should monitor next time… i noticed if i am eating or drinking something, and get up soon after, I get the hiccups… i wonder if it’s only when i eat spicy things.

  3. wilson
    August 23rd, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

    Whenever I have the hiccups, I will try to the following methods:

    1. Drink a lot of water
    2. Take a deep breath

    As I knew, don’t consume too much of carbonate drinks, as it will increase the rate of getting hiccups!

  4. kritarth
    September 18th, 2008 @ 9:17 am

    I m an Indian and love to eat spicy food but my problem is also the same as your. My threshold for chili is much higher but my hiccups don’t allow me the same is the problem with my father but interestingly my sister doesn’t have any problem! If you get the correct answer please mail me

  5. Scott Roberts
    December 29th, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

    I’ve never gotten hiccups from eating spicy food myself, but I know others who have. Think the best way to cure hiccips is to squeeze your abdominal muscles as tight as you can for 60 seconds. Contract and tighten them and don’t let go. act like you’re sucking in your belly and do it a little tighter. Feel free to breathe normally but don’t move your stomach. It may take a few times to practice this and get the proper concentration, but once you do you’ll have a sure-fire way to get rid of hiccups.

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  8. thulasi
    August 26th, 2015 @ 1:21 pm

    I am an Indian. I eat lot of spicy(Chili pepper) food, i never have problem with that.
    But i get the hiccups with black pepper added hot soup. once it starts it takes time to stop.Basically for every sip i get 2 hiccups. So usually i wait for the soup to be less hot, then drink.

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