Can Peanut Butter Really Cure Your Hiccups?

The first thing you want to do when you get the hiccups is get rid of them. Right? Hiccupping is uncomfortable and embarrassing, but it's rarely an indicator of any serious concerns. So, to know how to get rid of a case of the hiccups, it's good to understand exactly what hiccups are. The Washington Post offers a simple explanation. Written for KidsPost, a special section targeted to children ages 7 to 12, the outlet's description of what happens when we hiccup makes it easy to visualize the physical process.

In a nutshell, hiccups are a spontaneous disconnect in the human breathing process that begin in the diaphragm. When we exhale, the diaphragm contracts to push air out. When we inhale, the diaphragm relaxes to let air in. In and out — until something happens to offset that balanced rhythm and the diaphragm contracts out of sequence with the breath. The air rushing into your body triggers your larynx (aka voice box) to tighten. The epiglottis, a flap of tissue at the top of your larynx, flips closed (via Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) causing the "hic" sound of a hiccup (via 9 News).

Bottom line: To get rid of the hiccups, you need to relax your diaphragm so your epiglottis stops clicking shut and your breathing can reset to its normal rhythm. And we all know that's easier said than done.

Do folk remedies really get rid of hiccups?

The answer is yes ... and no. According to a segment on 9 News, at-home remedies for hiccups, like eating a spoonful of peanut butter, are more like tools for helping to reset your breathing than actual cures. Hang on. We're adding another body part to the physical process of hiccuping. The key to getting your diaphragm to relax is to redirect your phrenic nerve, which is the nerve that controls your diaphragm. Eating a tablespoon of peanut butter, or sugar, can distract the nerve with other tasks, such as swallowing, which causes it to stop irritating your diaphragm and allow your breathing to return to normal.

Reader's Digest compiled a list of 19 home remedies for hiccups including holding your breath, sticking out your tongue, gulping 10 quick sips of water, taking a teaspoon of water, sipping hot sauce, and sucking on a lemon. One acupressure-related remedy involves pressing the palm of one hand with the thumb of your other hand. Another suggests using the thumb and forefinger on your right hand to squeeze the top of the thumb on your left hand. Apparently, the solution works for some people because of the distraction the discomfort causes to the nervous system. We'll stick with peanut butter, thank-you-very-much.