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This Straw Is Science’s Best Way to Cure Your Hiccups

  • A special new straw cures hiccups by engaging your diaphragm.
  • The doctor behind the new invention explains how it works in a research letter published earlier this month in JAMA Network Open.
  • While the design is patent-pending, the straw is inspired by McDonald’s McFlurry straws.

    A new straw inspired by McDonald’s could be the secret to stopping hiccups in their tracks, according to a team of doctors and scientists that evaluated the patent-pending drinking vessel.

    Ali Seifi, an associate professor of neurosurgery and director of the neurological intensive care unit at University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, was inspired to build the contraption, called HiccAway, after watching his son eat a McFlurry soft serve treat. Seifi noticed the McFlurry straw is larger at the top than at the bottom, creating an interesting dynamic that forces the user to suck harder.

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    Have you ever tried to suck a milkshake through a straw? Depending on the milkshake, it can feel impossible. When you suck on a straw and get very minimal results, that activates your diaphragm, the extremely tough sheet of muscle that sits underneath your lungs.

    Knowing this, Seifi began to develop the “forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool” (FISST) in 2016. According to the HiccAway Kickstarter, he had been watching patients struggle with recurring hiccups following neurological injury for quite some time.

    “Dr. Seifi actively worked for a solution, and after years of trying to simplify a method to stimulate the Phrenic and Vagus nerve simultaneously, he devised what we now know as HiccAway,” the campaign says. The phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm, while the vagus nerve helps control the lungs and other internal organs.

    Directions: Get a cup half-filled with water and submerge the lower end underwater. Forcefully suck through the mouthpiece and subsequently swallow the water; expect some resistance when you suck through the straw. The hiccups are usually expected to stop instantly in 1 to 2 attempts.

    JAMA Network Open

    The idea behind HiccAway is simple: activate both nerves. To do so, the straw—which features a bend at the top and a very small hole at the bottom—basically recreates that feeling of trying to suck a milkshake through a regular straw, forcing the user to really dig deep and engage their diaphragm. That, Seifi says, tricks the diaphragm into setting aside the hiccups. “The diaphragm keeps being occupied by our intention of suctioning the water. Then, the brain forgets to keep spasming that diaphragm,” Seifi says in an Insider report.

    Earlier this month, a group of researchers validated HiccAway in a research letter published in the journal JAMA Network Open. To test the efficacy of the FISST straw, Seifi and a team of collaborators followed up with all of the 674 Kickstarter backers of a production run of HiccAway. Of those, 43 percent volunteered for the study and offered to self-report their experiences with the device. Users compared HiccAway to other common home remedies like drinking water upside down.

    That process involved an online questionnaire “eliciting subjective experience with FISST based on a 1 to 5 Likert scale (where 1 is strongly in favor of home remedies, 2 is in favor of home remedies, 3 is represents parity, 4 is in favor of FISST, and 5 is strongly in favor of FISST),” the letter explains. Overall, 183 of 203 participants (90.1 percent) rated HiccAway favorably compared with home remedies, and the researchers deemed the straw effective in 92 percent of cases.

    Of course, many home remedies are already trying to achieve some kind of diaphragm stimulus—but there’s no set of specific instructions for them, and therefore not much data on how effective they are. HiccAway is almost foolproof, and participants in the study reported no adverse effects. But what if you don’t want to fork over $14 for the straw?

    First, you could try something that Seifi himself recommends: take a regular old McDonald’s McFlurry straw, cover up most of the opening so that only a small hole remains, and suck water through it. You could also try out the method with a regular straw that you have at home, but try to suck in an extra thick beverage, just like the milkshake example above.

    Knowing how HiccAway functions does help explain how other home remedies are working, or at least trying to work. Sucking on a lemon, for instance, both engages your diaphragm and shocks your system with the extreme sour taste, which could lead to involuntary (but effective) muscle contractions. Holding your breath leads your diaphragm to relax due to the accumulated carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, swallowing rapid sips of water can trick your diaphragm into “resetting.”

    While this new research suggests HiccAway is your best bet to tackle hiccups, it’s also one of the first good data sets representing any attempted hiccup cure. Next year, there might be a study on 674 new people who all agree to eat lemons together and report their results. Until then, drink up.


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