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Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Hiccups?


Does alcohol cause hiccups?

Most regular drinkers have experienced hiccups from time to time while enjoying some alcoholic beverages, and the hiccuping town drunk falling off his barstool is an old trope, but even non-drinkers get them from time to time. But does drinking alcohol cause hiccups, or is it just a coincidence?

What Causes Hiccups?

Known medically as synchronous diaphragmatic flutters, hiccups occur when a sudden contraction of the diaphragm occurs at the same time as a contraction of the larynx, causing a temporary blocking of air intake.Research has found that there are multiple causes for a fit of hiccups including:

  • An irritation of the phrenic nerve.
  • Expansion of stomach, often caused by gas pushing against the diaphragm or overeating.
  • Movement of stomach acid.
  • A sudden change in stomach temperature.
  • Fizzy drinks or spicy foods.
  • Psychological factors including anxiety and stress.
  • Medications including opiates, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines.
  • Medical conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, acid refulx, hyper and hypoglycemia.

Of these causes, stomach expansion, movement of stomach acid, and irritation of the phrenic nerve are the most common. Fizzy drinks and spicy foods are common causes as well, but some people are far more susceptible than others.

Does Alcohol Contribute?

While alcohol itself does not directly cause hiccups, the consumption of alcohol can indeed lead to some of their most common triggers. Indeed, drinking alcohol often causes expansion of the stomach and movement of stomach acid, especially when one chugs or drinks at an accelerated rate. Alcohol can also cause an irritation of the phrenic nerve. [1]

Alcohol’s ability to induce hiccups is exacerbated even further when one is drinking carbonated beverages such as beer or champagne, or using a soft drink as a mixer. The carbonation not only can cause hiccups alone, but multiplies alcohol’s effect on stomach acid and stomach expansion.

Bottom Line: Drinking alcohol can cause hiccups, and is more likely to when drinking it with carbonated beverages or drinking at a faster rate.




Cited Studies

  1. http://www.anesthesia-analgesia.org/content/86/4/845.full.pdf

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