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Will Your Hiccups Go Away If You Reach and Sip?

Do you have a remedy to make hiccups go away? Drinking water plays a role in many remedies, but others call for a sharp flavor to do the trick.
Will Your Hiccups Go Away If You Reach and Sip?
Stop Hiccups – Red Sign Painted – Open Hand Raised, Isolated on White Background.

Have you ever tried to make hiccups go away with a home remedy? There are dozens, at least! Some sound entirely plausible, while others appear quite improbable. They all have one thing in common: a fervent champion convinced that this is the one and only hiccup remedy that really works.

How Can You Make Hiccups Go Away?

Q. I’ve suffered with hiccups all my life. (I’m in my late 50s.)

The only remedy that really works is one I learned from a friend about six years ago. Raise your left arm straight over your head while drinking a glass of water.

Can you tell me why this works? I’m guessing it has to do with the stretching motion expanding or opening up the diaphragm.

What Are Hiccups?

A. Hiccups are heard when the diaphragm repeatedly contracts involuntarily and the vocal cords close immediately after each contraction. There are many triggers, including a large meal, hot peppers, alcohol, carbonated beverages and anesthesia. A number of serious health conditions can also set off hard-to-treat hiccups. That’s why persistent hiccups (beyond two days) should be brought to a doctor’s attention.

Reach and Sip to Make Hiccups Go Away:

We have been collecting hiccup remedies for over 40 years. We suspect that many work by stimulating nerves in the mouth and throat. This in turn might interrupt the muscular contraction. Reaching up with the left arm while drinking water may help stimulate the vagus nerve much as swallowing a spoonful of sugar would. This is a time-honored remedy for hiccups (New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 23, 1971).

One reader recently shared his go-to remedy:

“My method of stopping hiccups has never failed. Never. Put the handle of a spoon in a glass (made of glass) of water. While pressing the bottom (bowl) part of the spoon firmly against your forehead, slip the water with the handle in it very slowly. Guaranteed! (It might work in other than a glass glass, but I have not tried that.)”

What About Pickles or Olives to Make Hiccups Go Away?

Other remedies, such as sipping pickle juice or eating olives, might work by activating transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in this same pathway. The bartender’s standby, eating a lemon wedge with Angostura bitters on it, may also be working through a similar mechanism. Activating TRP channels can override and calm a misfiring nerve that is causing a muscle cramp. This approach may also be able to reverse the misfiring of the vagus nerve causing the diaphragm to contract when it should not.

Learn More:

You can learn about many other hiccup remedies in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. If you are interested in TRP channels and how they can help alleviate muscle cramps, you may wish to listen to our interview with Dr. Bruce Bean, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. It is Show 1054: The Scientific Explanation for a Weird Remedy.

If you have a remedy that makes hiccups go away, please share it in the comment section below.

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About the Author
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. .
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