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SciShow

WATCH: How to Get Rid of Hiccups, According to Science

BEC CREW
31 MAR 2015

If you want to solve the problem of hiccups, you're going to have to get to know your diaphragm a little better, says Hank Green in the episode of SciShow above. This humble sheet of muscle under your lungs might not look like much, but it's one of the most important body parts you have, if you enjoy, you know, breathing.

 

You get hiccups when your diaphragm is experiencing involuntary spasms, which causes it to suddenly contract, prompting you to take in air super-fast. You keep doing this till your vocal folds clamp shut, causing those infuriating - and often embarrassing - "hic" sounds. Sometimes your body will just stop at one hiccup and move on, to the relief of everyone involved. But sometimes the spasms won't stop.

How do you solve this problem? Well, says Hank, it's simple - you've gotta get your diaphragm to calm down and relax. And just like rebooting a computer that's lost the plot, you have to basically 'reset' the part of your central nervous system that controls your diaphragm to get this done. And there are two ways to do this, according to the video above.

Firstly, you're gonna have to stimulate your vagus nerve, which runs down the back of your neck from the base of your brain. It helps to regulate your heartbeat and your breathing, so when you have hiccups, you need to 'distract' this nerve and basically get it to stop working so hard and making the diaphragm spasm so much. And the way you do this is kind of nuts.

Some people have success in stimulating their vagus nerve by swallowing a teaspoon of sugar. These dry granules are just hard enough to swallow that the vagus nerve gets 'confused', and focusses on getting that sugar down your throat instead of keeping up the relentless bout of spasms in your diaphragm. 

The other solution to hiccups? It's got to do with increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream, which sounds like a bit of a stretch, but it's actually genius. I'll let Hank explain it in the video above, because the science behind it means all that breathing into a paper bag, holding your breath, and drinking a glass of water stuff isn't just an old wives' tale after all.

Source: SciShow