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What Causes Hiccups?

Excessive eating, alcohol, excitement, or stress can overstimulate the phrenic nerves, which control the diaphragm. The diaphragm then contracts involuntarily. At the same time, the glottis, the part of the larynx where the vocal cords are located, closes up, says Patricia Raymond, M.D., a gastroenterologist in Chesapeake, Virginia. The result is the spasms and the odd hic sound that repeat every few seconds. A typical case of the hiccups lasts only a few minutes, but some can last much longer. While there’s no proven cure, Raymond suggests trying an action that resets the phrenic nerves (akin to rebooting your computer when it’s frozen), such as holding your breath or breathing into a paper bag.

(Photo: Marc Rosenthal)

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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