Natural Healing: Fix-ups for Hiccups

| September/October 2002

  • Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

Eduardo had been hiccuping every five minutes for two years. If anyone could have been more miserable, it’s hard to imagine. Desperate for any solution, Eduardo and his wife showed up at the outpatient clinic of the Tucson, Arizona, holistic hospital where I was practicing. While Eduardo and I were discussing his case, I had an assistant mix up 4 ounces of plain yogurt with 2 teaspoons of salt. I suggested to Eduardo that he eat the salty yogurt and relax in the waiting room. After downing the yogurt, Eduardo stopped hiccuping for the first time in two years.

To say that Eduardo was shocked would be putting it mildly. But two days later he returned, still hiccup-free, along with his entire family and a full enchilada dinner, with all the trimmings, for the whole staff. A month later, a follow-up call confirmed that Eduardo was still blessedly hiccup-free.

I learned the remedy from my mentor. I have seen it work countless times. It’s my “secret weapon” for this pesky problem.

Why hiccups occur

Hiccups (or “hiccoughs,” named for the sound) are sudden, brief, irritable, involuntary spasms of the diaphragm muscle. When the muscle contracts repeatedly, the glottis (the opening between the vocal cords) snaps shut, creating the hiccup sound. Irritation of the vagus nerve, which travels from the brain to the stomach, can also cause hiccups. Ayurvedic practitioners say that chronic constipation can aggravate the condition.

Hiccups are associated with a variety of diseases, including pneumonia, kidney failure, and Addison’s Disease, but generally they are not serious and have no obvious reason for occurring. Common conditions go along with hiccups, but none has been shown to be the cause. Swallowing air along with your food from eating too fast may bring on a case of the hiccups. Irritating the diaphragm by eating too much, eating fatty foods, or drinking alcohol (the classic drunk hiccup) can make you vulnerable to hiccups.

A round of the hiccups is seldom a medical emergency. For hiccups that last for more than three hours, affect your sleeping patterns, interfere with eating, or are accompanied by severe abdominal pain or spitting up blood, you should seek medical attention.

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