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w2pow2's avatar

How does drinking carbonated beverages or alcohol cause hiccups?

Asked by w2pow2 (490points) August 1st, 2009

So I understand that hiccups are caused by the spasmodic contraction of the lungs causing a sudden rush of air in turn causing the epiglottis to cut off air flow thereby making the hiccup sound. And I understand that the contraction of the lungs is caused by irritation to the phrenic and vagus nerves. But what I want to know is how drinking stuff can cause irritation to said nerves. Can someone please be my savior and give me an answer?

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18 Answers

w2pow2's avatar

Pretty please? I sure would be grateful!

dpworkin's avatar

I think we know the mechanism, which you more or less described again, although actually the phrenic and vagus nerves have to do with the diaphragm nore than the lungs, but I don’t know that we actually know causes. Alcohol, spicy foods, certain other things are positively correlated with hiccups, but correlation does not equal cause.

w2pow2's avatar

DOH! You’re right! About the diaphragm thing that is.
But are you saying that the human race does not know causes of hiccups? Is that what you meant by ‘we’? I would have thought that we did.

dpworkin's avatar

Apparently not. Mechanism yes, causes, no.

w2pow2's avatar

Well damnit that destroys my faith in the human race. Anyone else have something to add?

w2pow2's avatar

Or let me rephrase that: Please comment. Thank you.

marinelife's avatar

Only that scientists also cannot see a physiological purpose for hiccups. I guess it’s just a system glitch. Too bad we don’t have reset buttons.

tyrantxseries's avatar

“Hic!” You’ve just hiccuped for what seems like the tenth time since you finished your big dinner. Wonder where these funny noises are coming from? The part to blame is your diaphragm. This is a dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of your chest, and all hiccups start here.

The diaphragm almost always works perfectly. When you inhale, it pulls down to help pull air into the lungs. When you exhale, it pushes up to help push air out of the lungs. But sometimes the diaphragm becomes irritated. When this happens, it pulls down in a jerky way, which makes you suck air into your throat suddenly. When the air rushing in hits your voice box, you’re left with a big hiccup.

Some things that irritate the diaphragm are
1. Eating very quickly,
2. Eating something that is hot but still drinking cold water over it,
3. Sobbing or crying – Eating very spicy food,
4. Consuming very hot food,
5. Consuming excessive alcohol or soda,
6. Coughing badly,
7. Laughing badly.
8. air in your stomach
, an irritation in the stomach or the throat, or feeling nervous or excited. Almost all cases of the hiccups last only a few minutes. Some cases of the hiccups can last for days or weeks, but this is very unusual and it’s usually a sign of another medical problem.

Most of the time, doctors never find the cause of persistent hiccups. When a cause is found it is almost always something that irritates or presses on the nerves leading to the heart, lungs or diaphragm, such as a tumor, stomach ulcer, or irregular heart beats.

dpworkin's avatar

@tyrantxseries , All 8 items on your list are positively correlated with hiccups, but I do not think we know that any of those items is a cause. If they are causes, please explain how they are causes.

tyrantxseries's avatar

They can irritate the diaphragm, stomach or the throat, Their isn’t a direct cause, but alot of different factors wile drinking/eating/breathing/smoking that cause hiccups..

Saturated_Brain's avatar

… We don’t know what causes hiccups?

Wow… That’s… Interesting, to say the least..

ShanEnri's avatar

I thought it was simply because it caused an air bubble or pocket in the diaphragm. I was told by a doctor that if you can make yourself belch the hiccups will go away. So it’s all caused by air in the diaphragm. And yes the belching helps!

marinelife's avatar

“Hiccups are commonly caused by distention of the stomach, which you get if you eat too much, drink carbonated beverages, or swallow too much air. This suggests hiccup as a sequela to boozing may be more the result of fizzy mixers than alcohol itself. Or else you just slurp.

Lots of other things can cause hiccups too, some of them pretty scary. Skimming through a long list, I see skull fracture, epilepsy, diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, tuberculosis, meningitis, bowel obstruction, and ulcerative colitis. ”


evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I’ve read that the hiccup is a holdover from the days when our ancestors had gills and had yet to crawl out of the ocean and become terrestrial. I can’t remember where I read that, but it sure makes the ‘creationism’ definition of the origin of hiccups sound even more ludicrous. =)

bea2345's avatar

What is the creationism definition?

w2pow2's avatar

Oh and I’ve been wondering about one thing: Does the sudden rush of air PUSH the epiglottis down or does the epiglottis feel it needs to be a hero and protect the glottis? Would the sudden rush of air damage the glottis or vocal folds if the epiglottis didn’t close?

w2pow2's avatar

Ok so getting the air pocket in the diaphragm completely screws with the phrenic and vagus nerves, causing the diaphragm to contract?
Here’s my attempt at a metaphor: Guy works in a bottle factory. everything’s working like its supposed to, until his boss decides to bring in his annoying five-year old to the factory. Five-year old keeps going “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you.” To the guy. Guy can’t do his job right with that annoying kid bugging him. So to get rid of the kid the guy yells at the kid. It gets rid of the kid and now the guy can do his job in peace.
Guy= Phrenic and vagus verves
Boss= Mouth
Factory= Lungs
Kid= Air pocket
Is that correct? Am I missing anything?

w2pow2's avatar

Was it something I said?
Is this discussion dead?
That would be a shame because I would REALLY like an answer to the comment two above this one.

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