woman with headache, migraine

Q. Ice cream headaches cure my hangovers. I’ve read that it helps send more blood to the brain as a defense mechanism to try to keep the brain warm. I’m assuming the increased circulation helps my brain recover from the effect of the alcohol.

A. When we first heard from readers that inducing “brain freeze” by eating ice cream quickly could stop a migraine headache we were astonished.

Then a group of scientists reported on research in which they triggered brain freeze in volunteers by having them drink ice water. Sophisticated Doppler equipment measured blood flow within the subjects’ heads and found that the pain of brain freeze began when an artery just above the palate started to dilate, presumably to protect the brain from getting too cold.

It seems that this change in blood vessel diameter might be related to the effect on migraine headaches. We don’t have any theories on why it might help a hangover headache, though. We like to counsel prevention for this problem, but we recognize that’s not always going to work. Since there really aren’t any good hangover remedies besides the passage of time, this would be welcomed by a lot of folks if it works for them.

If you would like to hear a fascinating first-hand account of how “brain freeze” helped one man overcome his migraine headaches, click on this link. Then click on the white arrow to listen to his amazing story.

If you have had success inducing brain freeze to get rid of a hangover headache, please tell us your story below.

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  1. Keith

    I was just sitting here with a headache from drinking a Lil to much wine so I had a glass of ice water and quickly realized that the headache went away briefly after getting brain freeze so while I may have learned my lesson I can indeed verify it works.

  2. John G.

    Many years ago,while I was a young graduate student I was faced with a dilemma: Saturday night had seen a great student party, at which many of us had way too much to drink. Sunday afternoon was to bring a faculty-student seminar with a visiting scholar–at our house!
    After literally crawling out of bed Sunday morning with of course deep regrets, I wondered what to do. I can’t remember where the inspiration came from, but it came into my mind I needed some sort of shock treatment to clear the clouds of funk. I decided a dip in the swimming pool on this very cool Albuquerque morning in April might be just the thing (we had lucked out in renting the house of an emeritus prof, grad students didn’t usually have swimming pools in their homes!). The initial plunge in the very cold water was indeed like an electric shock, but the desired effect came quickly and was little short of miraculous. Scrambling out of that pool with blue lips, I found I was ready for anything.
    Since then, I’ve learned it’s far better to avoid hangovers in the first place, but short-term cold stress on the body—not just on the brain, probably–mobilizes the bodies defenses. I suppose if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger!

  3. Karen

    There’s a far far better solution for hangovers. Quit drinking (so much?).

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