Why does eating ice cream make me feel like I have a cold?


Why does eating ice cream make me feel like I have a cold?

In: Biology

Lactose intolerance? Diabetes? Psychosomatics?

By “make me feel like I have a cold”, are you referring to the thing often called “brain freeze” where you get a sudden painful headache when eating something cold like ice cream?

If so, that’s because of a false response to the cold of the ice cream (or snow cone, slushie, ice cold drink, etc.). In the roof of your mouth, what’s called the “soft palate”, you have a lot of blood vessels and nerves that are not surrounded by bone, so they are affected more rapidly by things like temperature inside of your mouth. When you eat something extremely cold those blood vessels get cold and the nerves detect that, so your body responds as if the entire body is cold. But the cold was very localized to your palate, not to your entire body, so it’s a false response.

As a defense mechanism, your body knows that your brain has the highest priority to stay heathy, so any stimulus indicating there might be a problem, like “it’s freezing”, results in more blood going to the brain to keep it happy. To make that happen, the body sends signals to all of your smaller blood vessels, making them “constrict” (squeeze tighter) to send less blood to them and make it available for the brain, which is why your fingers, toes and nose get cold fastest when it is cold outside. But because *this* issue was not really that your entire body was freezing (only your palate) *too much* blood goes your brain, which didn’t really need it and you get a headache, instantly. As soon as you warm up your palate again, the body returns everything to normal and the pain subsides.