Why ice-cream sometimes causes a headache?

Would you spend $817 for ice cream? Scoopi Café serves this “Black Diamond,” the most expensive ice cream in the world. Like other ice cream varieties, “Black Diamond” is made from scratch with ingredients such as Italian truffles, ambrosial Iranian saffron, and edible 23-karat gold flakes. But it might cause you a headache, not because it’s too expensive but because of coldness.

When you experience that headache after eating your favorite ice cream, you have a brain freeze. Scientifically, it is also called cold stimulus headache, trigeminal headache, or sphenopalatine ganglion neuralgia. It is a quick headache when icy food like ice pops, ice-cold drinks, or ice cream touches the upper palate. It is indeed tempting to eat them during hot summer days.

In The FASEB Journal April 2012 issue, Dr. Jorge Serrador, a cardiovascular electronics researcher, explained that there is still no exact explanation of what causes brain freeze.

In his research, he recruited 13 healthy adult volunteers that were asked to sip ice-cold water through a straw, so that the liquid would hit their upper palate. After that, their blood flow in the brain was monitored using a Transcranial doppler ultrasound (TCD). They found out that the brain freeze appears to be caused by a sudden increase in blood flow through the brain’s anterior cerebral artery.

After the scientists gave warm water to the volunteers, the artery’s constriction was triggered.

When you quickly eat something icy, you rapidly change the temperature in the back of your throat at the juncture of the internal carotid artery, which supplies blood to the brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, where brain tissue starts.

Another theory states that freezing temperature temporarily changes blood flow in the nervous system, resulting in a short-term headache. To prevent the loss of body heat, blood vessels immediately constrict and relax again to let blood flow rise, resulting in a burst of pain that goes away once the body adapts to the temperature change. (click here for more details)

According to Dr. Dwayne Godwin, a neuroscientist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, brain freeze is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take it easy. Despite the billions of neurons that it has, the brain cannot feel the pain; instead, the pain from a brain breeze is sensed by receptors in the outer covering of the brain called the meninges, where the two arteries meet.

The cold causes dilation and contraction of the arteries and the brain interpret the sensation as pain.

Some studies link migraine to brain freeze. According to Nauman Tariq, director of the Johns Hopkins Headache Center, migraine sufferers have a higher likelihood of experiencing brain freeze. However, the brain freeze pain is more intense and sharp than migraine, although both occur in the forehead and result in throbbing pain. (click here for more details)

As one of life’s simplest pleasures, ice cream might not give that pleasure at the beginning of eating it. Yet your excitement gets the best of you. Nobody is exempted from its capacity to cause an agonizing pain once ingested. It usually catches us off-guard by inciting what is known as “brain freeze” or “ice cream headache.” But don’t feel bad as there’s a way to lessen this harsh side effect.

Dr. Stephanie Vertrees, a headache specialist and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine, suggests eating the cold food slowly so that your mouth can warm up the food. Also, just use the front part of your mouth when eating freezing foods because brain freeze is stimulated at the back part of the mouth.

The warmth of the tongue can heat the nasal sinuses and the nerves that make up the sphenopalatine ganglion. Therefore by pressing to the roof of the mouth can help reduce pain.

Vertress also said that brain freeze is not dangerous and very self-limiting. It’s a matter of patience and slowing down every time you are eating or drinking too cold. (click here for more details)

Drink something warm or hot can rapidly warm the back of your throat. A hot beverage will coat the back of your mouth with heat, and help alleviate the symptoms.

If you are nowhere to grab a hot drink and don’t want anyone else to see you put your thumb in your mouth, this is an alternative. Cup your hands over your mouth and breathe. Just your breath can help provide heat at the back of your throat to drive the pain away. (click here for more details)

Ice cream is meant to be enjoyed and to make you “I Scream” because of pain from the avoidable brain freeze!