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Brainfreezes: What Causes Them and How to Fight Them!

Drew having a brain freeze
Drew, TRI-102.5

If you’re like me, you’ve been relying on cold treats and beverages to keep cool in the midst of the high temperatures this Summer.  We’re not quite to Fall yet, and I’m sure there are plenty of hot days still ahead of us; so while you’re enjoying those frozen treats, you’ll have to be wary of one of the most annoying parts of consuming cold things too fast: the brain freeze.

Also called a “cold headache,” the sharp head pains associated with consuming frozen foods too quickly can be debilitating enough to stop you in tour tracks.  Until recently, doctors didn’t know exactly what caused these horrible inconveniences.  Then, a study on migraine headaches revealed the culprit.  The results of the study were presented on Sunday at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego.

Basically, researchers caused brain freezes in test subjects with the hope that the brain freeze would lead to a migraine, which could then be monitored and studied.

The researchers monitored the blood flow through their brains using an ultrasoundlike process on the skull. They saw that increased blood flow to the brain through a blood vessel called the anterior cerebral artery, which is located in the middle of the brain behind the eyes. This increase in flow and resulting increase in size in this artery brought on the pain associated with brain freeze. When the artery constricts, reining in the response to this increased flow, the pain disappears.

[via LiveScience.]

So what can you do to combat the infamous brain freeze?  Here are a couple tips:

1. Tongue It

Can you curl your tongue? Good. Fold the tip of it backward and stick the bottom of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The warmth will help heat up the nerves in your palette and cause the blood flow to your brain to normalize, Serrador says.

2. Slurp Slowly

To make study participants get brain freeze, Serrador had them suck down ice water like thirsty maniacs. Why? “The only way to get a brain freeze is to drink or eat whatever it is [that's cold] really fast,” he says. If you drink (or eat) more slowly, you give your blood time to heat the tissue in the roof of your mouth and avoid triggering a cold-induced headache. So slow down and savor your treat.

3. Warm Your Hands

Your hands might not be cold, but acting like they are can make your mouth warmer, Serrador says. Cup your hands around your mouth like you would in the winter and exhale deeply. It will trap warm air in your mouth and help thaw your noggin.

[via The Body Odd.]

I can’t believe I didn’t think of any of these!  My days of hunkering down in the fetal position and waiting out the brain freeze are over!

Do you have any tried-and-true methods for fighting off a cold headache?  Let me know in the comments below!

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