SÃO PAULO, SP (FOLHAPRESS) – Hiccup. Who has never had one? According to specialists, hiccups are an involuntary process caused by irritation in the area of the diaphragm, the muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen. It is usually a benign, transient, and self-limiting condition.
Most of the time, the cause is not serious and can be just a reaction of the gastrointestinal system to a bad diet or an excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, for example. In the case of babies, it is because they do not have a fully developed nervous system.
According to the Ministry of Health, crises have variable duration and can last for minutes, hours or even weeks. Most of the time, the hiccup spontaneously improves within a few minutes.
However, if it persists for more than two days, it is good to see a doctor, explains gastroenterologist Yves Turke. “The solution is a multifactorial problem”, he says. “Reflux is one of the most frequent causes of hiccups and is caused by something the person ingested that irritated the phrenic nerve. This nerves the diaphragm, which is connected to the esophagus.”
If the hiccup is persistent and is accompanied by other symptoms, it may indicate more serious illnesses. According to the doctor, problems such as obesity, overweight, alcohol abuse, smoking, anxiety, hernia, depression, multiple sclerosis and brain cancer can also cause these spasms and be an indication of illness.
Hiccups can also originate from metabolic changes caused by alcoholism or uncontrolled diabetes. It can also come from diseases of the central nervous system, such as meningitis or tumors, according to the doctor.
In those cases, Turke would recommend an endoscopy or an ultrasound of the neck to see if there’s anything more serious. “Gastric problems also generate episodes of hiccups. The stronger the irritation, the stronger the hiccups”, he emphasizes.
One solution is to avoid irritating factors. It is also necessary to observe if the person takes any medication that causes irritation. “Hiccup is only one and sporadic. If it persists for more than 24 hours, it’s better to see the doctor,” says Turke.
The best way to contain hiccups is to drink water, especially cold water, as the abrupt change in temperature stimulates thoracic innervation, regulating the functioning of the diaphragm, as indicated by the Ministry of Health. But, in the case of older people, according to geriatrician and professor of general practice at Hospital das Clínicas Paulo Camiz, persistent and intractable hiccups can cause malnutrition, weight loss, insomnia, fatigue and stress. These types of spasms mostly occur in older men.
Camiz explains that the hiccup hardly lasts for 48 hours. If you go beyond that, you need to investigate the cause. “Hiccups are related to the digestive system and resolve themselves. But the physical causes are the majority in men and, in women, the causes are more psychological”, she emphasizes. “And the elderly are more vulnerable and susceptible.”
According to him, the warning sign lights up when the person is getting tired due to the hiccup or when the frequency of cases that last for more than 48 hours increases. “To treat, it is necessary to solve the physical cause related to the digestive part and the problems in the esophagus. As the years go by, there is a greater chance that the person will have more problems.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PROBLEM
– General causes
Irritation in the diaphragm
Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages
Air entering the lungs at a much higher rate than normal
Use of medications (anesthetics, corticosteroids, anxiolytics)
– In more serious cases, it may indicate problems such as
The organism itself takes care
After 24 hours, if it doesn’t improve, see a doctor
Only a specialist doctor can indicate the ideal remedy for the problem
Tests such as endoscopy or ultrasound in the neck
Persistent hiccups can cause tiredness, malnutrition, weight loss, insomnia and stress and occur mainly in elderly men
The main causes of hiccups are psychological
The speed at which babies feed and the excess of food they consume combined with the intake of air can make digestion difficult. As it distends the stomach, it can cause contractions of the diaphragm, muscle still immature in babies and the main cause of hiccups
– Popular beliefs: how they work
Hold the breath
Holding your breath increases the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules in the bloodstream, which makes the brain act to contract the diaphragm
drink ice water
The ingestion of cold water acts to stimulate, by changing the temperature, a nerve that also acts on the diaphragm.
Get a fright
The scare causes an alert that releases, into the bloodstream, a chemical compound called catecholamine, which is capable of regulating the functioning of the phrenic nerve (responsible for the diaphragm’s inspiration process)
Hold the breath
Hold your breath for a few seconds and release it slowly. This maneuver can end up with mild hiccups as it helps to relax the diaphragm and decreases the nerve impulses that trigger muscle spasms.
blow against resistance
Blowing against the hand, for example, increases intra-abdominal pressure, increasing the resistance on the diaphragm and organizing its functioning. The same happens when blowing a bag or a birthday ball
Sources: Ministry of Health; Paulo Camiz, geriatrician and professor of General Practice at Hospital das Clínicas; and Yves Turke, gastroenterologist
Published in Sun, 18 Jul 2021 12:01:00 -0300