7 Reasons You Get the Hiccups After Eating and How to Rid Yourself of Them ASAP

Photo: Getty Images/Eva Katalin
If you've ever gotten a bad case of the hiccups after eating, you know how irritating they can be. But what are these annoying fits in the first place?

"Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle, which can happen at different rates," says Vincent Pedre, MD, a functional medicine specialist. "As this muscle contracts repeatedly, your vocal cords also contract to prevent the unexpected inflow of air" and food from getting into your lungs, he adds. This motion is what causes that classic "hiccuping" sound.

Put simply, "a hiccup is a spasm of your diaphragm, vocal cords, and intercostal muscles (i.e., the muscles between your ribs)" says Dr. Pedre. Anything that causes these muscles to suddenly spasm can lead to hiccups, which unfortunately, is often beyond our control.

Experts In This Article

Read on to learn causes of post-meal hiccups, in particular. Plus, how to get rid of them, stat.

What causes hiccups after eating?

Post-meal hiccup triggers vary from person to person, but the most common include:

1. Eating too quickly

You might be familiar with the way that swallowing air causes bloat, but it can also cause hiccups. This often happens when you eat too quickly. Swallowing air while eating or drinking "distends the stomach rapidly, and thus can irritate the diaphragm muscle," says Dr. Pedre. "The diaphragm reacts to this sudden distension by contracting."

2. Eating beyond the point of being full

In a similar way, eating too much food can cause your stomach to expand and jostle any organ or muscle in its close proximity—including the diaphragm. When your diaphragm is pushed, it can cause hiccups, says Dr. Pedre.

3. Sudden and extreme temperature changes

Say you spend a hot summer day outside only to retreat into the AC (or vice versa in the winter) and eat immediately, the sudden change in temperature can cause your diaphragm to contract, leading to post-meal hiccups. This can also happen if there's a temperature change inside your esophagus, from eating/drinking really hot (or cold) food and beverages, per Harvard Health Publishing.

4. Hot and spicy foods

Apart from spicy food worsening IBS symptoms, the chemical compound in spicy ingredients like chili peppers (called capsaicin) can also irritate your diaphragm and result in a bout of the hiccups, according to University Hospitals. And if you're prone to acid reflux, spicy foods can trigger GERD hiccups after eating, which are similar to little burps. Something to think about next time you ask a friend to pass the bowl of cauliflower buffalo wings, amirite?

5. Dry foods

Any notoriously dry food (like plain bread or crackers) can tickle and irritate the lining of your esophagus and trigger hiccups. These foods may also be harder to chew, causing you to swallow more air as you eat, per Kaiser Permanente. This not only leads to more gas in your stomach, but also a potential case of the hiccups.

6. Drinking carbonated drinks

Another cause both bloating and hiccups have in common? Fizzy drinks. Any extra air you inhale when drinking sparkling water with your meal, for example, might give you a bad case of both by dessert. This can also happen if you drink too much drink soda, wine, beer, or other types of sparkling alcohol too quickly, per the Mayo Clinic.

7. Nervousness or anxiety while eating

Besides food and drinks, other factors in your environment can contribute to hiccups. For instance, if you're feeling nervous or anxious while eating, this can increase your chances of hiccups after the fact. Even excitement or a sharp inhale of cold air can send your diaphragm into a spasming fit, per Harvard Health Publishing.

How to get rid of hiccups after eating

The best hiccup remedies may sound simple, but they usually work. Try one of these quick hiccup solutions to feel better in no time.

1. Hold your breath

You've probably heard this one before. The idea is that holding your breath will cause you to take a sudden gasp of air before or after, which should reset the stretch receptors in your diaphragm, bringing an end to your hiccups, says Dr. Pedre. Try holding it for 15 to 20 seconds before returning to your normal breathing pattern.

2. Get frightened

The strategy is similar to holding your breath—being scared often elicits a sudden gasp and change in your breathing, which can stop the hiccups. It's just harder to pull off because you can't really do it to yourself. And if you ask someone else to scare you, it could end up ruining the surprise factor. So instead, you can try watching an episode or two of a scary show.

Just keep in mind, some experts advise against this tactic because getting startled can increase your risk of losing your balance and falling, or can negatively affect people with heart conditions, per Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.

3. Set off your gag reflex

Dr. Pedre says one of the lesser known ways to get rid of hiccups is to gently set off your gag reflex. You can do this by gently pulling on your tongue. In doing so, you'll stimulate the vagus nerve, which controls your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and plays a role in the contraction of your diaphragm. Just be easy with yourself if your gag reflex is really strong.

4. Try the Valsalva maneuver

Similar to alternate nostril breathing in yoga, the Valsalva maneuver can help reset your irritated nerves and potentially knock out hiccups. It's done by trying to exhale while closing your mouth and pinching your nose at the same time. You'll bear down while doing this, almost as if you're trying to blow up a balloon (but unsuccessfully), per Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. You can try this a couple of times, taking normal breaths in between each round.

5. Suck on a lemon wedge

There's no true scientific research for this, but doctors have found that sucking or biting on a lemon wedge may help some people get rid of hiccups. The theory is it stimulates your nasopharynx—the uppermost region of the throat—and calms down the muscles of the diaphragm, per Harvard Health Publishing. We know it's super sour, but it's worth a try.

6. Eat a spoonful of nut butter

Just like a spoonful of creamy peanut or almond butter can soothe a tickle in your throat, it may also help stop your hiccup fit. The texture of smooth nut butter may relax the back of your throat, and help relax the muscles in and around the diaphragm, per Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. As an added bonus, it's just a really yummy snack.

7. Massage your diaphragm

To deal with the problem, you can also get to its root. "A gentle massage of the diaphragm along the borders of the ribs is a good way to try and resolve hiccups," says Dr. Pedre. You can also try pulling your knees to your chest and leaning forward as you're sitting down, which works to massage and relax the diaphragm area, per Harvard Health Publishing. Not only could this stop your hiccups, but it could also support your gut health if you're feeling backed up or gassy.

8. Drink or gargle water

Although sudden temperature changes might have caused your hiccups in the first place, quickly drinking a glass of cold water (which is known to soothe nerves) is an easy home remedy to try to battle hiccups. Adding a spoonful of baking soda in water could also help reduce symptoms of acid reflux and gas, if that's what's causing your hiccups, per the Mayo Clinic.

Gargling water can also help influence the vagus nerve into easing your hiccups by quelling the contraction of your diaphragm.

How to prevent post-meal hiccups

Try a few of these hiccup prevention tips next time you sit down for a meal, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Eat slow and chew food thoroughly
  • Try not to talk while eating or chew with your mouth open (to avoid swallowing air)
  • Limit carbonated beverages like soda and alcohol
  • Limit stressors while eating
  • Drink lukewarm water while eating a meal
  • Avoid over-stretching your neck

When to see a doctor

If you get hiccups after eating pretty often, and the above tips don't help, it's worth seeing your doctor to get to the root of the issue. They may be able to prescribe antacid medications, or other medications to help relax the muscles in your diaphragm.

While rare, hiccups that last 48 hours or longer are possible—called persistent or chronic hiccups. If these happen to you, let your doctor know, as they can signal a more serious underlying condition—like a stomach or esophagus disorder, GI disease, liver issues, or pancreatitis, per the National Organization of Rare Diseases. Managing and treating these conditions may help your hiccups go away.


What does it mean if you get hiccups after every meal?

Hiccups after every meal could mean that you are swallowing a lot of air while chewing your food, per the Mayo Clinic. But it could also mean that you have acid reflux from certain foods—like spicy food, fried foods, sweets, etc. If this is the case, try eating a meal with easy-to-digest foods like rice, baked chicken, or whole wheat bread to see if it relieves your symptoms. You can also try taking an antacid like Tums to see if it helps calm your reflux and hiccups.

Are frequent hiccups a symptom of anything?

Getting hiccups for more than 48 hours means there's a possible underlying condition causing them. Hiccups multiple times a day—even waking up with hiccups—could indicate damage or irritation to your vagus and phrenic nerves, which directly connect to your diaphragm.

Things that irritate these nerves include a hair (or something else) touching your eardrum, a tumor or growth on your thyroid gland, acid reflux, or a sore throat, per the Mayo Clinic. Frequent hiccups could also be from nervous system disorders, metabolic issues like diabetes or kidney disease, certain drugs (like sedatives or steroids), or alcohol use disorder, per the Mayo Clinic.

—reviewed by Jennifer Gilbert, MD, MPH

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