Almost everyone gets hiccups sometimes. These small spasms of the diaphragm and larynx can be annoying, but they are rarely serious. Consequently, people have made up lots of home remedies to try to stop them more quickly. Many involve specific ways to sip a liquid–usually water. One reader is adamant that you should drink pineapple juice for hiccups.
Pineapple Juice for Hiccups:
Q. All the time I’ve read your column I haven’t seen pineapple juice mentioned as a cure for hiccups. It works with one sip!
A. People use a huge number of remedies for hiccups, ranging from eating an olive to sipping pickle juice or sucking on a lemon wedge with Angostura bitters sprinkled on it. Some people swear by dark chocolate. We suspect that all these approaches may work by activating transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in nerves.
Hiccups are triggered by a misfiring of the phrenic or vagus nerves that cause an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm. The vocal cords close at the same time, making that distinctive hiccup noise. Activating TRP channels might reverse the vagus nerve excitation. Unfortunately, we have not seen any studies of whether or how pineapple juice might affect TRP channels. Both menthol (mint) and capsaicin (hot peppers) have powerful effects on different TRP channels. These channels are active in the vagus nerve and larynx, aka voice box (Hossain et al, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Dec. 18, 2018).
Other Hiccup Remedies:
We mentioned that some people are enthusiastic about olives or pickle juice to cure hiccups. You might enjoy these testimonials.
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Green Olives for Hiccups:
Q. I have been meaning to write you about this for a long time. I have used one or two green olives for hiccups for many years, as have all my family members.I don’t know why it works, it just does. It stops them almost immediately. It even worked on a friend who had been through surgery and had suffered for three weeks until I gave him an olive. Have you ever run across anyone else who has used this? I’m rather curious as to why it works.
A. We have been collecting hiccup remedies for a long time, but this is the first time we have heard of using green olives. Most hiccup remedies work by stimulating the phrenic nerve at the top of the hard palate. Chewing crushed ice or swallowing a spoonful of granulated sugar or ice cream seems to interrupt the hiccup reflex. Perhaps the green olives work on a similar principle.
Somebody else tried this remedy right away:
Q. I just wanted you to know I read your column recently about the power of green olives fighting hiccups. My 5 year old got the hiccups the next day. Guess what? One green olive did the trick. Coincidence or science? Who knows, but we’re convinced it worked!
A. We don’t know exactly what it is about olives that would be helpful. Possibly the act of chewing or swallowing the olive stimulates the vagus nerve. On the other hand, the salt, citric acid or lactic acid in some green olives might play an important role.
Dill Pickle Juice for Hiccups:
Q. The best hiccup remedy I have found is dill pickle juice. One to two ounces does the trick.
A. You are not the first reader to sing the praises of pickle juice for hiccups. Perhaps the salt or the vinegar is responsible.
Some people also maintain that this unconventional approach helps their leg cramps. There’s even been some scientific studies that suggest that it’s effective for muscle cramps.
One reader shared this:
“I have tried nearly everything for cramps in my legs and feet, (including Ivory soap under the bottom sheet), all to no avail. I was speaking with my aunt and expressed my dilemma with this crippling pain. She told me that she had solved the same ailment with dill pickle juice!
“At the next inkling of a cramp, I hobbled to the kitchen, swallowed a hearty shot glass full of pickle juice and the pain almost instantly went away. I was not troubled again that night and slept soundly.”
Pickle juice is high in sodium, so people with high blood pressure or heart failure should probably stay away from this remedy. Some TRP channels (TRPM8) are sensitive to acetic acid, aka vinegar (Aizawa et al, Neurourology and Urodynamics, June 2018). Again, we have no idea if this is the mechanism for pickle juice working on hiccups.
Erin is a pickle juice advocate:
“I’ve been using the pickle juice for hiccups remedy since I was in 3rd grade. Whenever I am without pickle juice, I can have a hiccup spell that reoccurs 7 to 10 times a day. After a while holding my breath just doesn’t work but as soon as I drink just a little pickle juice the hiccups fade right away. It has worked for me 100% of the time.”
Another reader offered this story:
“A few years ago my son got hiccups really bad and my mom or someone told him to eat a few pickles and they would go away. I really thought it was all in his head when he ate one and they went away. As of this morning at 2:50, I am fully a believer in pickles to cure hiccups!
“I woke up at 2:30 am to use the restroom and I ended up with deep, strong, chest hurting hiccups. I tried holding my breath many times to no avail so after 20 minutes of trying to rid my hiccups, I staggered to the kitchen and got the pickles spears. After 1.5 spears, I noticed the hiccups were gone! Still a bit skeptical, I ate 3 to make sure they were gone! We’ve never tried drinking pickle juice by itself but eating a few did the trick!”
Our readers are not the only ones to use pickle juice for hiccups. We heard this from a grandfather:
“While watching Sprout TV with my granddaughter, the sproutlets found a pickle juice pond to cure hiccups. I never heard of this before. I just would sneak a sip or two because I liked it.”
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. Read Terry's Full Bio.
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Aizawa N et al, "KPR-2579, a novel TRPM8 antagonist, inhibits acetic acid-induced bladder afferent hyperactivity in rats." Neurourology and Urodynamics, June 2018. DOI: 10.1002/nau.23532
Hossain MZ et al, "Activation of TRPV1 and TRPM8 channels in the larynx and associated laryngopharyngeal regions facilitates the swallowing reflex." International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Dec. 18, 2018. DOI: 10.3390/ijms19124113
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