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Can You Mitigate a Migraine with a Milkshake?

Drinking a cold chocolate milkshake quickly to trigger an ice cream headache can often mitigate a migraine headache.

Migraine headaches are debilitating as well as painful. Many sufferers report nausea and an inability to stand light or sound that imprisons them in a darkened room until the symptoms pass. There are medications, such as sumatriptan, that can mitigate a migraine. However, not every migraineur responds well to them. They may welcome a simple remedy, no matter how implausible it might sound.

Could Drinking a Milkshake Mitigate a Migraine Headache?

Q. After 50 years of almost daily migraine headaches, I found out by accident that drinking a Starbucks Frappuccino would knock out my pain immediately. Then I got a migraine during a wild thunder and lightening storm on a somewhat remote road without a Starbucks in sight.

I went to a McDonald’s instead and had a chocolate milkshake. Voilà! Same help.

It’s the brain freeze that is ‘the checker’ for me. Plain ice water will not do it. I believe the viscosity is necessary.

The Beauty of Brain Freeze:

A. Many other people tell us that icy-cold beverages or ice cream can be helpful against migraine headaches. Inducing brain freeze seems to interrupt the pain pathways that underlie a migraine. We suspect that this technique results in neuromodulation, which is considering a promising approach for the future (Puledda and Goadsby, Headache, April 2017). Scientists do not seem to have studied the tactic of exposing the roof of the mouth to extreme cold, however.

Not everyone benefits from this strategy. Some people are unable to induce an ice cream headache and other don’t find it useful. There are other options for people who can’t utilize brain freeze to mitigate their migraines. Those who would like to learn more about a variety of approaches to ease headache pain may be interested in our Guide to Headaches and Migraines.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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