Family History


The World according to Billy...


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Click here to go straight to Billy's hiccup cure.

Health Warning - Billy is no medical expert and this page contains opinionated content. If you have good cause to enlighten Billy, please make Contact and he will gladly consider warranted corrections.


There is quite a mystery about hiccups. Medical knowledge seems to be rather limited about their causes, and cures. So it is not surprising that many home remedies remain popular, even if they blatantly don't work.

Have you ever been shocked out of your hiccups? If so, please let me know.

Conventional wisdom on hiccups

According to the NHS, hiccups "don't seem to have a useful purpose". This can be translated as "we haven't a clue what they're for".

According to the Phylogenetic hypothesis, hiccups are an evolutionary remnant of earlier amphibian respiration. That's only 250 million years out of date then.

Short term verses persistent hiccups

As far as I know we all get short term hiccups. These are sometimes humorous, sometimes irritating. This page deals with short term hiccups.

However there is a rare but more sinister version which is not humorous at all. Persistent hiccups are those which continue for longer than 48 hours and these usually result from an underlying medical cause. They can be positively debilitating and can prevent the sufferer from working, sleeping, eating and performing many ordinary functions of life. If you have hiccups which last for longer than 48 hours, please seek medical advice without further delay.

Billy's Hypothesis

Hiccups seems to be associated with the phasing of swallowing and breathing in mammals. Swallowing is a complex process which involves four different neurological mechanisms which must be correctly coordinated to enable a bolus to pass from the mouth to the oesophagus without entering the trachea. If we fail to close the trachea we risk aspirating part of the bolus into the trachea which we know as "going down the wrong way" and produces a powerful cough reflex to clear the airway. In extreme cases, a piece of food can block the trachea which causes choking.

Normally we unconsciously time our swallow to occur at the moment when we have fully inhaled, and momentarily hold our breath while the epiglottis closes our airway and the bolus passes cleanly into the oesophagus. This allows us to remain fully oxygenated during swallowing, and prevents us from aspirating which may happen if we inhaled as we swallowed. It also ensures we have a lungful of air in case we get it wrong and need a good strong cough.

My hypothesis is that failing to synchronise swallowing with inhaled breath-holding risks hiccups, and that re-synchronising swallowing with inhaled breath-holding can cure hiccups.

Supporting Evidence

Many causes of hiccups are given in the usual references. A great many of them are associated with mis-phasing our swallowing and breathing. Let's examine some of the commonly cited causes of hiccups. All of these involve a disruption in the ordered synchonisation to our swallowing and breathing. It is important to remember that we swallow not only when we eat or drink, but regularly swallow saliva unconsciously.

Commonly Cited Cause Billy's Hypothesis
Eating or drinking quickly If we eat too quickly we swallow too soon rather than at peak inhalation.
Alcohol Alcohol produces a general loss of coordination which is required to synchronise swallowing with breathing.
Sudden excitement or shock Excitement or shock can cause an involuntary inhalation which can interrupt our synchronisation.
A sudden change in temperature This can cause a shock induced inhalation.
Spicy food Surprising food taste or temperature can also cause a shock induced inhalation.
Carbonated (fizzy) drinks Fizzy drinks commonly cause regurgitated air (burping) which interrupts both swallowing and breathing functions.
Swallowing air Swallowing air also causes regurgitation (burping).
Smoking Smokers often exhale while drawing smoke into their mouth. Tobacco smoke promotes salivation and if the smoker swallows immediately prior to inhaling the smoke then the swallow will occur during full exhalation. This is exactly opposite to our normal synchronisation.

The other piece of supporting evidence is the success of Billy's cure as described below which resynchronises swallowing and breathing functions.

Billy's cure simply involves relaxing and resynchronising breathing and swallowing. It's a simple step-by-step process which I've found to work on many people.
  1. Sit somewhere quiet and calm.
  2. Breath in SLOWLY until your chest is full.
  3. Breath out SLOWLY until your chest is empty.
  4. Breath in SLOWLY until your chest is full and hold your breath.
  5. Swallow three times.
  6. Breath out SLOWLY until your chest is empty.
  7. Gently breath again normally.
  8. If you still hiccup, repeat the process once more.

Does this work for you? If so then pass it on. If it doesn't, then please let me know what happened and what worked in the end.

See also
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