why do you get a brain freeze
Brain freeze is also known as ice cream headache, cold stimulus headache, and sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. It is a short-term headache typically linked to the rapid consumption of ice cream, ice pops, or very cold drinks. Brain freeze occurs when something extremely cold touches the upper palate (roof of the mouth). It typically happens when the weather is very hot, and the individual consumes something cold too fast. Harvard Medical School scientists who have investigated the causes of brain freeze, believe that their findings could eventually pave the way to more effective treatments for various types of, such as migraine-related ones, or pain caused by brain injuries. It's not just ice cream; any cold stimulus can cause the nerve pain that results in the sensation of a brain freeze. Cooling of the capillaries of the sinuses by a cold stimulus, which results in vasoconstriction (a narrowing of the blood vessels). A quick rewarming by a warm stimulus such as the air, which results in vasodilation (a widening of the blood vessels). These rapid changes near the sensitive nerves in the palate create the sensation of brain freeze. The proximity of very sensitive nerves and the extreme stimuli changes are what cause the nerves to react. Dr. Jorge Serrador, a cardiovascular electronics researcher, highlighted research in
The FASEB Journal (April 2012 Issue), which explained that, until now, scientists have not been able to fully understand what causes brain freeze. Dr. Serrador's research involved: asking them to sip ice-cold water through a straw, so that the liquid would hit their upper palate They found that the sensation of brain freeze appears to be caused by a dramatic and sudden increase in blood flow through the brain's anterior cerebral artery.
As soon as the artery constricted, the brain-freeze pain sensation wore off. The scientists were able to trigger the artery's constriction by giving the volunteers warm water to drink. The sensation is not serious, but can be very unpleasant. Brain freeze treatments include: pushing the tongue to the roof of the mouth, which helps warm the area A preventative cure is reducing the cold stimuli on the palate, which means avoiding large amounts of cold food or drink at once. Dr. Serrador explains that we already know that sufferers are more likely to suffer brain freeze after consuming very cold food or drink, compared with people who never have migraines. He suggests that some of what occurs during brain freeze may be similar to what causes migraines, and possibly other kinds of headaches, including those caused by traumatic brain injuries. Serrador and team believe that local changes in brain blood flow may be causing other types of headaches. If this can be confirmed in further studies, new medications that prevent or reverse vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels) may help treat headaches. Dr. Serrador said: "The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time. It's fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm. " If dilated arteries cause a sudden rush of blood to the brain, which raises pressure and causes pain, a drug that constricts the blood vessel should reduce pressure and eliminate the pain.
Also, constricting the blood vessels that supply the brain could help prevent pressure building up dangerously high. If you're still wondering about the science behind brain freeze, this video by the SciShow team takes a look at how brain freeze occurs and discusses the quick ways in which to get rid of it. It happens to just about everyone:Pyou take a delicious first lick from your ice cream or long sip of a coldPslushie,Pand thenPbamyour head begins to pound, or pain radiates all throughPyour skull. The pain continues as you shut your eyes and wince, and thenPitPsubsides, lettingPyou to go back to enjoying your cold treatPagain. Like sudden lightning storms and itchy mosquito bites, brain freeze is one of the downsidesPofPsummer. Also known as ice cream headache,Pcold stimulus headache,Por by its hard-to-pronounce scientific name,PsphenopalatinePganglioneuralgia,Pit's aPsudden and intense kind of painPthat can catch you off guard, even when you've experienced it many times before. RELATED: And while it's hardlyPthe hours-long skull throbberPa migraine or sinus headache can be, brain freeze is officially categorized as a type ofP as well, and it'sP in the International Classifications of Headache Disorders. To understand whatPtriggers the sensation and find out how to ease the pain fastor prevent it from ruining your ice cream indulgence in the first placewe reached out to doctors and researchers for the science behind it.
What exactly is brain freeze? No, your brain doesn't actually become frozen. Brain freeze happens when a cold substance, like ice cream,Pis introduced behind the nose and palate, Lauren Natbony, MD, a neurologist at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Health. When the bundle of nerves in this part of the mouth sense something cold, they send anPinstantPmessage to the brain,PcausingParteries andPblood vessels to react. As a result, your head starts to throb. "The pain comes on soon after something cold has touched the palate and is typically referred to the forehead," saysPAnne MacGregor, MD, a headache specialist at thePBarts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry in the UK. The ache comes on fast, just asPthe cold temperature of your ice cream or drink hits those nerves. P"It lasts just few seconds but sometimes minutes," before fading away, says Dr. MacGregor. By itself, brain freeze is harmless, and the phenomenon isn't associated with any worrisome neurological conditions. However, it is linked to migraines. People who suffer from tend to be more prone to brain freeze, saysPDr. Natbony, because the same nerves in the palate arePresponsible for triggering both types of head pain. How can I get rid of it? Brain freeze is temporary andPnot exactly something serious enough to take a sick day for, so it's perfectly okay toPjust wait it out. PBut if it's super intense, or you just don't want to deal with the buzzkill,Pthere are solutions. PDr. MacGregorPsuggests drinking warm (but not hot) water slowly as you sense brain freezePcoming on; the warm water will mitigatePthe cold sensation in your palate, and your head shouldn't throb as intensely or for quite as long.
P RELATED: Another quick brain freeze fixPis to press your tongue or the tip of your finger against the roof of your palate, which willPwarmPup the nerves there similar to the way warm water can. While Dr. NatbonyPsays that no science backsPup this trick, it can't hurt to give it a try. "If you introduce warmth during the brain freeze, it seems like that should work," she says. Prevent brain freeze next time you eat or drink Of course, the easiest way to keep brain freeze from striking is to avoid consuming ice-coldPfood and beverages, says Dr. MacGregor. But in the summer, or on a sunny warm vacation,Pthat's notPall that realisticor fun. P To get our best wellnessPtips delivered to you inbox, sign up for theP So prevent brain freeze from happening in the first place byPeating your ice cream veryPslowly, especially during that initial bite or lick, so the nerves in your palateParen't overwhelmed with the cold sensation. POrPtryPeating cold foodPtowardPthe front of your mouth, which helps you avoid the sensitive nerve endings toward the back that trigger brain freeze, suggests Dr. Natbony. If none of these solutions help, Dr. Natbony also advisesPthat youPheat yourPcold food to a warmer temperature before putting it in your mouth. PSo if you can handle a soupy, warm pint of rocky road,Pstick your bowlPin the microwave for a couple of seconds before devouring it.
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