Food & Drink

Why Do You Get Brain Freezes?

ice cream headache
Shutterstock / Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

Everyone understands that if you eat a frozen treat, like ice cream, you might get a brain freeze. But would we eat apple pie if we knew it would feel like J.J. Watt was pummeling our midsection on the third bite of every slice? Surely not. And while we can’t stop you (or ourselves) from the self-abuse, we can help you understand why the hell you get those headaches and what, if anything, you can do to stop them.

ice cream
Natalie Gay/Thrillist

What's an ice cream headache?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a prestigious medical facility that has never taken a dime of Hellmann's money, an ice cream headache is "a sharp, stabbing pain in the forehead that peaks about 20 to 60 seconds after it begins and goes away in about the same time." Essentially it's a super-short, very painful headache. And they are not caused just by ice cream -- one can also happen when you drink a cold beverage. 
 

Why you get ice cream headaches

The big breakthrough in the ice cream headache game came in a 2012 study during which researchers from Harvard Medical School and the National University of Ireland in Galway had participants “[drink] iced water through a straw pressed directly against the palate,” reports The Telegraph. By studying the blood flow in participants’ brains, researchers theorized that the resulting ice cream headaches -- or brain freezes, as those of us who didn’t go to Harvard prefer to call them --  resulted from the brain trying to keep itself warm. Does this mean Coldplay's seminal album A Rush of Blood to the Head was about brain freezes? Perhaps.

ice cream
Sean Cooley/Thrillist

How to avoid ice cream headaches

The Mayo Clinic provides an obvious way to avoid brain freeze: eating ice cream or drinking cold drinks more slowly. But since you're a glutton and you're not going to do that, The Telegraph interviewed Dr. Amanda Ellison from Durham University in the UK, who provided another option specifically to avoid a brain freeze -- aim the straw down your throat instead of at the roof of your mouth. That should do the trick.

Since it'll be kind of tough to not have ice cream hit the roof of your mouth when you're eating it, the only way to avoid ice cream headaches is to eat that pint of Cherry Garcia slower. And to that we say, good luck, America.

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and eats his ice cream slowly. Follow him to good advice at: @LeeBreslouer.