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Here's What Actually Happens During a Brain Freeze
Now that the summer months are here, it's time to indulge in our favorite frozen treats and cool down on those hot summer days. The only con (besides the calories) of noshing on ice cream and popsicles is, of course, brain freeze.
But why do our favorite desserts painfully betray us in the first place?
"We think it has to do with the body's reaction to the cold, like a protective mechanism," Dr. Yasha Kayan, a neurointerventionalist at Abbott Northwestern told WCCO news. "One of the theories is that there's extra blood flow to the brain and that increases the pressure in the brain and gives you a headache."
In technical terms, brain freezes are called "sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia," or nerve pain in the roof of the mouth. Scientists believe that the pain isn't directly in the brain, but is likely a result of discomfort in the face which is felt in the lining of the brain.
"It's like when you get pain in another location and because your nerves are complicated, they can transfer the pain and feel like you're hurting somewhere else," Dr. Kayan said. "It's kind of like when people have shoulder pain when they're having a heart attack."
According to a 2012 study, researchers found that the pain was brought about when blood rushed to the brain after subjects drank ice water quickly, which they monitored through an ultrasound test. The pressure of the sudden blood flow is likely the culprit of the migraine-like pain we experience when eating cold foods quickly. The solution? Sip warm water to constrict the arteries in your head again.
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