Why do we Hiccup?

From Issue: Discovery 12/1/2011

Dear Allison,

You have asked an excellent (but difficult) question. In fact, this is one of those questions that I cannot answer as well as I would like. Hiccups have frustrated people for thousands of years, and scientists still do not know for sure why people hiccup. Some say hiccups are the result of an irritated stomach; others say they are caused by nerve spasms, or by a person’s stomach that briefly expands. But, the truth is, no one has been able to figure out exactly what people do that causes hiccups.

But scientists do know about the process of a hiccup. There is a muscle below your lungs known as the “diaphragm.” When a person’s diaphragm is irritated, it sometimes contracts uncontrollably (similar to a muscle twitch). This spasm of the diaphragm causes air to be pulled very quickly into the lungs. Once the air passes through the voice box, your glottis (the opening between the vocal chords) tightens, which causes your vocal chords to vibrate. When this happens, you hear the well-known “hiccup” sound.

Isn’t it interesting to consider that humans do not even understand the causes for a simple hiccup? Yet God knows all things. Truly, God’s thoughts are higher than man’s thoughts, and His ways are higher than man’s ways (Isaiah 55:9).


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