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Why does cold food give me a headache?

Dr. Dawn Marcus
Neurologist

To see if certain foods influence your headaches, follow a headache restriction diet for 1 month. If your headaches don't improve during that time, you will have learned that foods are not important triggers for you. If your headaches do improve significantly, slowly add foods back into your diet one at a time to identify which foods might be triggering your headaches. In general, a food should trigger a headache within 12 hours of eating it. In some cases, foods only trigger headaches when eaten in large quantities, when consumed in combination with other foods or when you are also exposed to other triggers.

The Woman's Migraine Toolkit: Managing Your Headaches from Puberty to Menopause (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

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The Woman's Migraine Toolkit: Managing Your Headaches from Puberty to Menopause (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

Migraines are a common, controllable type of headache that affects one in every six women, more than 20 million in the United States alone. The Woman’s Migraine Toolkit helps readers take charge of...
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Ah, downed your triple-dipped chocolate a little too quickly, ay?

There are two theories as to what causes the rush of pain that comes with frozen food. One, the rapid cooling of air in the frontal sinuses may trigger local pain receptors. Two, the construction of blood vessels in the roof and rear of the mouth relax after the cold rush passes and as blood rushes into the area, it overloads local pain receptors, and shoots the pain to the head.

These are correlated with migraine headaches in some, which makes sense since the cause of these headaches is also dilation of arteries. To reduce the pain: Keep your tongue touching the roof of your mouth—and stop eating so much ice cream!

YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

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YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

Between your full-length mirror and high-school biology class, you probably think you know a lot about the human body. While it's true that we live in an age when we're as obsessed with our bodies as...

The cause of cold-stimulus headache, or "ice cream headache," remains largely a mystery. One theory is that the pain originates in the back of the throat, which is chilled by the ice cream, but is felt in the head—a phenomenon known as referred pain. Any cold food or drink can induce this type of headache, but ice cream is the main culprit because it's very cold and is often swallowed quickly. This doesn't allow for the treat to be warmed slightly in the mouth before it contacts the back of the throat.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.