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HICCUPS and Chinese Medicine

Hiccups are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm that cause an involuntary and fast drawing in of breath, which is immediately cut off by the closing of the throat, creating that well known sound. In most cases it is not a serious issue, only a bit annoying, especially when it happens while one is at the movies or in an important meeting.

Almost everybody knows of one home remedy or another. They range from drinking water while closing the nose, to sneezing, putting ice cubes in your mouth, scaring the sufferer or massaging the neck.

Hiccups only ever can become a serious problem when a person is weak (i.e. chronically ill) or the hiccup has been happening continuously for a few days.

In Chinese medicine (CM), everything that goes up when it is supposed to go down is considered ‘rebellious energy’, in this case, the Stomach energy (Qi). This can be caused by Cold in the Stomach (usually from eating Cold foods), emotional factors (most often stress, which greatly affects the Qi dynamic) or simply overeating. In that case, the hiccup will often be accompanied by acid reflux and heartburn. If the hiccup is the result of a (abdominal) surgery, then the CM diagnosis of Blood Stasis is appropriate.

If the patient is elderly or chronically ill, then it is likely that a deficiency, usually some form of Yin or Yang deficiency is the cause of the hiccup. Rather than a blockage, like in the above-mentioned causes, here the body doesn’t have enough energy to push the Stomach Qi downwards.

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