The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD- FILE - Aoife McEl­wain

Hic!. . . Hic! . . . Hic! . . . On a re­cent brisk walk through The Lib­er­ties in Dublin’s city cen­tre, I was sud­denly af­flicted by in­vol­un­tary con­trac­tions of the di­aphragm mus­cle, other­wise known as the hic­cups. Mere min­utes be­fore this at­tack, I had been wolf­ing down a pizza. It ap­peared my well- in­ten­tioned en­thu­si­asm for stone- baked dough had had an un­pleas­ant and ad­verse ef­fect.

Hic! . . . Hic! . . . Hic! . . . How could I es­cape? I sud­denly re­mem­bered a cu­ri­ous fact I had read on­line – that a tea­spoon of sugar could cure the hic­cups. I dashed into the near­est corner shop and grabbed a sa­chet of sugar from their hot drinks sec­tion.

Hic! . . . Hic! . . . Hic! . . . I knocked the sugar back in one go and crunched on the sweet gran­ules be­fore they dis­solved on my tongue.

Hic! . . . I took a deep breath. I waited. And waited some more. Then de­clared, in tri­umph, “I’m cured! It worked! A spoon­ful of sugar re­ally does cure the hic­cups!”

My friend, a more cyn­i­cal type than I, grum­bled “a spoon­ful of dis­trac­tion, more like”. Well, it turns out we’re both kind of right. Ac­cord­ing to Matt So­niak of Men­tal Floss, dis­trac­tion is a key in­gre­di­ent in cur­ing the hic­cups.

“The va­gus nerve is a cra­nial nerve that in­ner­vates the stom­ach and con­veys sen­sory in­for­ma­tion about the body’s or­gans to the brain,” wrote So­niak in a 2012 ar­ti­cle named What Causes Hic­cups and Why Does Sugar Cure Them? ( men­talfloss. com). “When dis­tracted by over­whelm­ing in­for­ma­tion of an­other sort, it ba­si­cally tells the brain that some­thing more im­por- tant has come up and the hic­cup­ing should prob­a­bly be stopped.” What could be more im­por­tant and over­rid­ing than the sweet sen­sa­tion of sugar gran­ules on one’s tongue? In their 1971 study, gran­u­lated sugar as treat­ment for hic­cups in con­scious pa­tients, En­gle­man, Lank­ton and Lank­ton found that eat­ing a spoon­ful of gran­u­lated sugar was ef­fec­tive in cur­ing hic­cups in 19 out of 20 pa­tients. Ac­cord­ing to Mind The Sci­ence Gap ( mindthe­science­, other food- re­lated cures which prey upon our brain’s ca­pac­ity to be eas­ily dis­tracted in­clude plug­ging your ears while drink­ing a glass of wa­ter and eat­ing a lemon soaked with bit­ters. A spoon­ful of sugar has a bet­ter ring to it though, doesn’t it? Though I wouldn’t go mak­ing a habit of knock­ing back sa­chets of sugar, ex­cept in a hic­cup emer­gency.

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