Migraine headaches cause a lot of misery. Although there are medications such as almotriptan (Axert), frovatriptan (Frova), rizatriptan (Maxalt), sumatriptan (Imitrex) or zolmitriptan (Zomig) that can be used to stop a migraine if they are used promptly at the onset of symptoms, they are expensive. There are also medicines that are prescribed to prevent migraines for people who suffer frequently. But is there a simple way to stop your migraine as soon as it starts?
Stop Your Migraine with Ice Cream:
Q. I get nauseating, throbbing migraines that make it excruciating to bend over, cough or do much of anything. If I quickly eat one bowl of ice cream the pain is gone. This works faster than taking a pill. In my experience this remedy that I read about on your website is definitely worth the try!
A. You are not the first person to report that eating ice cream quickly can sometimes stop your migraine headache. One reader wrote:
“I have been doing this with milkshakes for years. Coffee/mocha is my favorite.”
Research has shown that when something cold (ice cream, a popsicle, Slushie® or Frappucino®) touches the roof of the mouth it can induce “brain freeze.” You can read what we wrote about that research here. This induces rapid blood vessel constriction and then dilation, which may explain why something cold can sometimes stop a migraine before it takes hold.
Who Gets Brain Freeze?
Not everyone who suffers from migraine headaches also experiences ice-induced headaches, but brain freeze does appear to be more common among migraine sufferers (48%) than among people without headaches (17%) (Cephalalgia, Nov., 2012). A recent study showed that ice water produced a more intense cold-induced headache than plain ice cubes (Cephalalgia, online May 19, 2016).
Others Who Found Ice Cream Helped:
A number of other readers have reported that eating ice cream can help stop a migraine. Anna wrote:
“About two months ago I was at work and on my third day of a migraine headache. My coworker and I were eating lunch and even though I usually avoid sweets like ice cream during a migraine, I was craving something cold, so I grabbed some ice cream. After several bites, I developed a terrible brain freeze headache, but when the brain freeze left, so did my migraine!
“My migraines are usually the most intense and unbearable during the first day, during which I do not feel like eating or drinking anything due to nausea, so I don’t know yet if it works when the headache is that intense. I drank a frappe the other day when I felt a headache was coming on and it took care of it!”
“Ever since I was 7, I’ve suffered painful migraines. Being young, I didn’t want to take medicines to help these. I would suffer in school and spend at least three days a week lying in a sick room, or putting my head on my desk. Every sound and glimpse of light made me want to cry.
“Medical tests and many doctors/specialist could not find a cure for me with a better alternative than suffering through school. It eventually became apparent to my parents and I that when I ate DQ, my episode disappeared. I happen to only eat chocolate ice cream; vanilla is not tasteful for me.
“To this day, I still get episodes 3+ times a week. I agree this varies person to person. I keep Excedrin with me; however, I have more luck with ice cream. Quick, simple, and painless.”
“For years I have used a pint of lemon sorbet as my emergency migraine treatment. I suffer from a very high rate of migraines (at least ten days out of the month) and keep a supply of Imitrex on hand at all times. Before I had Imitrex I would resort to eating lemon sorbet very quickly until I got brain freeze and with a little luck the migraine would pass. I don’t know how I came across this cure, I suspect it was one of the food cravings that I get with migraines.”
Ice Cream or Ice Water?
If you want to avoid the extra calories from eating ice cream to stop your migraine, you might experiment with ice water instead. We usually think of ice water as having no side effects, though there is at least one case report in the medical literature of a young man who developed atrial fibrillation (A-fib) at the same time as a cold-induced headache (American Journal of Case Reports, Jan. 13, 2016).