“Brain freeze!” 

And with that, everyone stops and looks up from their ice cream cone to see which friend has the crinkled face, closed eyes, and one hand clinging onto their head. Brain freeze is basically a rite of passage during summer. They’re always more unpleasant than we remember, but we’d also kind of miss them if we were never to get one again, wouldn’t we?

Everyone’s had a brain freeze at some point or another, making it surprising how few people know what it even is. It’s caused by consuming something cold, it’s uncomfortable, and it hurts more than we expect it to, but what really is it?

What Is Brain Freeze?

Brain freeze has a few different names depending on how science-y we want to get with it.

In order of least science-y to most science-y terminology: brain freeze, ice cream headache, cold stimulus headache, trigeminal headache, and sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia all refer to the same sharp feeling we get after eating something too cold, too quickly. 

Here’s how it happens: when we consume something really cold, we’re dramatically changing the temperature in our mouth and at the back of our throat. At the back of the throat is the internal carotid artery and anterior cerebral artery, which feed blood to the brain and is where brain tissue begins. As a survival reflex to keep our bodies at the correct internal temperature, our blood vessels automatically constrict when coming into contact with a substantially colder substance.

With the blood vessels constricting, the body pumps extra blood to the area to help the vessels readjust; this causes the blood vessels to begin to swell. The feeling of “brain freeze” is believed to be caused by the discomfort from blood vessels quickly contracting and then quickly swelling, resulting in pressure and pain that can be felt throughout the mouth, face, and head. 

Essentially, brain freeze is a quick and intense headache that comes and goes in a matter of seconds.

What Causes Brain Freeze?

Ironically, ice cream takes all the heat for causing brain freezes (har har, see what we did there?). 

Ice cream may be the scapegoat, but anything that is too cold and consumed too quickly can trigger a brain freeze. Cold slushies, popsicles, milkshakes, iced water, and more can all trigger the reaction that leads to brain freeze. 

Brain freeze can even be triggered by cold air entering the body through either the mouth or the nose. The cold air enters our body and can react with the trigeminal nerve system (hence one of the names, trigeminal headache), which carries sensory information from our facial area to our head and brain. 

Studies also show that people who regularly experience migraines may be more prone to experiencing brain freeze. This would be because their trigeminal nerve is perhaps already sensitive and thus vulnerable to temperature shocks. 

Does Brain Freeze Happen to Everyone?

Not necessarily – yep, there are brain freeze virgins out there! 

Everyone has a trigeminal nerve, but not everyone experiences brain freeze. Some people’s trigeminal nerve (and their entire trigeminal nervous system) are more sensitive than others. This means less cold temperatures and shorter durations of exposure can be enough to cause brain freeze for some people, but not others. 

If you find yourself being nailed by a brain freeze, you’re going to want to act as fast as the brain freeze itself and remove the cold food or drink ASAP – this will stop or slow the nerves from contracting any further. Pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth or consuming something slightly warmer can help too. (Note we’re saying ‘slightly’ warmer because we want to avoid any more drastic external temperature shocks – our body’s response will be enough, we just have to wait it out). 

How Do I Prevent It?

The good news is that the typical brain freeze often goes away in less than 30-60 seconds of exposure to the cold. 

As fast as a brain freeze may go away, it’s still preferable to avoid it altogether. Brain freeze is our body’s way of signaling us to slow down. Brain freeze is our body’s way of signaling us to slow down; so, it sounds obvious, but we really just need to slow down and savor whatever it is we’re eating or drinking.

Consuming cold food or drinks slowly will prevent our body from feeling the sudden and scary shock that scares it into thinking something bad might be happening. Besides taking it slow, it’s also recommended to be mindful of keeping the cold food or drink away from the upper palate to avoid contact with the trigeminal nerve. 

Oh, and don’t bother reaching for an aspirin or acetaminophen. Research supports that for most people, by the time the medication starts to kick in, the brain freeze will already be over. 

Proceeding With Caution

Avoiding ice cream isn’t a solution to anything, obviously. 

With warmer weather right around the corner, ice cream season is about to be in full swing. In fact, if this year is like last year, the surge in ice cream demand may come early again. We’re still in a pandemic, and any sense of comfort and familiarity is being welcomed with open arms. Ice cream seems to be the perfect combination of comfort and familiarity wrapped up in happy memories and nostalgia. 

As we enter the ice cream season of 2021, we’re likely going to be seeing a lot more dairy-free alternatives. Whether it be because of the shifting trend toward plant-based lifestyles, the increasing prevalence of lactose intolerance and milk allergies, or the heightened awareness surrounding climate change, dairy-free ice cream demand has never been higher. Seriously, it’s flying off the shelves. 

Even a few years, dairy-free alternatives for any type of product were few and far between. Enter the “Golden Age” of plant-based ice cream (hint: it’s now, the golden age for plant-based ice cream is finally upon us); there’s a new dairy-free ice cream popping up just about every other day. 

Not all dairy-free ice creams are created equal. Reviews of chalky-textures, bland flavors, and watery consistencies are much too common and are giving dairy-free ice cream a bad rep! Cue, Eclipse ice cream. 

Eclipse ice cream is the best dairy-free ice cream that is entirely plant-based. With glowing reviews from CNN, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Forbes supporting the jaw-dropping deliciousness of this ice cream, we think we’re all going to be seeing a lot more of it around town this year. 

Eclipse ice cream is made from scratch in a kitchen, not a laboratory, with only six ingredients, all hailing from Mother Nature herself: oats, corn, cassava, organic cane sugar, and non-GMO canola oil. There’s beauty in simplicity, and this ice cream has nailed it. Eclipse ice cream is the first plant-based ice cream indistinguishable from conventional dairy ice cream – it’s not a dairy alternative; it’s a dairy sequel. 

Ready to give dairy-free ice cream a shot this year, because why not? Eclipse Classic Collection is an excellent place to start; chocolate, vanilla, and cookie butter are all tried and true and 100% creamy and delicious. 

We can’t promise Eclipse ice cream won’t give you a brain freeze, but we can promise it’s the best choice for your next trip to the grocery store.

And with that, cheers to the beginning of ice cream season! May your stomach be full, your heart happy, and your soul satisfied. 


Carotid Artery (Human Anatomy): Picture, Definition, Conditions, & More | WebMD

What Causes Brain Freeze? – Featured, Health Topics, Neuroscience | Hackensack Meridian Health

Headaches How to Ease Brain Freeze | Hopkins Medicine

2020 State of the Industry: Ice cream is a category on fire | Dairy Foods

Non-Dairy Ice Cream Market Share 2020-2026 | Industry Report | gminsights.com

We tasted this plant-based ice cream and can happily report it’s delicious | CNN

Berkeley’s Eclipse Foods releases vegan ice cream that tastes just like dairy | SF Chronicle