As you eat and drink, food touches your palate (the roof of your mouth). The palate contains sensitive nerves that control blood flow to the head.
When something very cold comes in contact with the palate, these nerves blast a message to the brain, which causes blood vessels in the head to swell up suddenly. This rapid swelling of blood vessels causes your head to throb and is a sign you’ve just eaten your way to an ice cream headache!
Though some people call this phenomenon “brain freeze,” nothing is actually happening to the brain. The sudden headache sensation you experience is simply the swelling of blood vessels in the head.
These headaches aren’t dangerous. They’re just a pain. It may feel like an eternity, but most ice cream headaches last only a minute or so and then go away quickly.
Though ice cream is the notorious offender when it comes to brain freeze, it isn’t the only food that can induce a headache. Almost anything cold can become a culprit, including frozen slushees, popsicles and even cold water or juice.
Of course, the best way to enjoy a dessert is pain-free! Doctors advise eating cold foods slowly to avoid brain freeze. Others suggest warming foods up in the front of your mouth before swallowing.
If you feel a brain freeze coming on, take a break and allow your palate to warm up. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to dig back in.