Who could have imagined that gorging on a good ol’ ice cream can knock you out completely for a few moments? We’ve all experienced that mind-numbing sensation a few times; and this article demystifies that strange phenomenon.
So, what according to you are the best things about summer? For me, it’s got to be the cloudless blue sky, long balmy evenings and a freezer that’s well-stocked with popsicles! These fruity delights are lifesavers on a hot summer day. You know what’s even delightful? Ice lolly competitions! Yes, those very ones where you stuff your face with as many fruit pops as you can in a minute’s time. It’s really hard to forget those times, not only because of the fun factor, but for another brain-numbing association.
You guessed it right; I’m referring to the brain freeze or an ice cream headache; a sensation that’s as fresh in our mind as the taste of the fruit pop that caused it. What is this weird phenomenon that almost everyone experiences, but it doesn’t stay on long enough for us to investigate its causes?
Before we get down to the actual causes, let us run through its scientific introduction. The brain freeze is termed as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia or sphenopalatine ganglion nerve pain. Simply put, it is the headache that you sometimes get when you consume cold substances really fast.
Causes of Brain Freeze Headaches
We get a brain freeze when we gulp down chilled food or drinks, is something we already know. But what really triggers it, and why don’t we get it every time we consume something cold? Here are the answers.
»A brain freeze happens when the chilled substance touches the roof of our mouth, also called the palate. This occurs when we swallow the portions rapidly, or deliberately hold it, touching the palate.
»The cold substance freezes the capillaries and causes the blood vessels in that area to suddenly constrict to maintain body heat.
»As the portion is swallowed, the palate begins to warm up, leading the blood vessels to dilate.
»When such contrasting responses occur in quick succession, they activate the pain receptors, which release prostaglandins. This causes us to feel the pain.
»The nerve that carries these pain receptors to the brain is the trigeminal nerve.
»The trigeminal nerve is the same one which detects pain in the facial region.
»This is how the brain gets tricked into believing that the pain is coming from the forehead instead of the mouth.
»So, the location of the actual pain is different from where the brain figures it’s coming from, and this is termed as referred pain.
Avoiding Brain Freeze Headaches
It is necessary to learn how to stop brain freeze from occurring, as giving up on chilled foods and beverages is obviously out of question. Just read through and you’ll know.
»It is the cold-hot variation on the palate that causes brain freeze. Just avoid gulping down cold things.
»While eating or drinking, place the portion on the tongue for a while, as it heats up a bit. This will not send shock waves through your palate.
»Let your tongue revel in the taste of your food or drink. Swallowing it in haste is no fun anyway; and it is hasty swallowing that triggers a brain freeze.
»Just in case you feel an attack coming on, roll your tongue, so that the underside touches the roof of your mouth. Press your tongue to the palate, and hold it for a few moments till the palate warms.
»You could even press the roof of your mouth with your thumb, and hold it till the sensation recedes.
»Although it may feel like eternity, a brain freeze doesn’t last for more than a minute, so you could just let it pass.
»Drinking warm water reduces the intensity to a great extent, but it can be a mood killer as well.
Cold desserts are a complete delight, irrespective of the weather. With the love that most people have for these treats, it isn’t a wonder that they love to down it in a flash, which has painful consequences. Patience rewards most of the time, as it does in the case of chilled desserts too.