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Originally published Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 5:04 AM

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Inducing brain freeze to interrupt a migraine

People’s Pharmacy on migraines, libido, sugarless candy, and hand and finger cramps.

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If you have hand cramps while playing cards, get a card holder! MORE

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Q: I have been suffering from severe migraines and recently noticed that if I chug a Slurpee and induce “brain freeze,” my headache immediately clears up or goes away entirely. It makes more of a difference than my prescription medication.

A: You are not alone. Other readers have reported that inducing brain freeze with ice cream, ice water or a Starbucks Frappuccino can interrupt a migraine.

There is even some research to support this approach (FASEB Journal supplement, April 2012). Researchers found that drinking ice water constricted blood flow near the palate, resulting in brain freeze. Since migraines are believed to be triggered by changes in blood flow to the brain, disrupting the process by creating brain freeze may explain your remedy.

Q: I read on your website about women desperate to reduce their libido. I used to suffer from the same unwelcome sexual desires. I think my sex drive was due to excess testosterone.

I fixed this problem by drinking spearmint tea in the morning and the evening for several weeks. Spearmint is available in health-food stores or Latino groceries, where it is sold as yerba buena.

A: To our surprise, we found that in Turkey, mint tea has a reputation for lowering libido. Animal research suggests that it may have an impact on testosterone.

In one study, researchers treated 21 women who had unwanted facial hair (Phytotherapy Research, May 2007). A cup of spearmint tea twice a day for five days lowered free testosterone.

A British trial randomized 42 women with polycystic ovary syndrome and high testosterone levels to take either spearmint tea or placebo tea twice a day for a month. At the end of 30 days, testosterone levels were lower in the women who had consumed spearmint tea (Phytotherapy Research, February 2010).

Q: I just ate a bar of sugarless dark chocolate. It was low-carb and gluten-free, so I assumed it would be a healthy treat. I suffered severe stomach cramping, gas and diarrhea! What happened?

A: Sugarless candy is often sweetened with maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol or xylitol. These sweeteners are called sugar alcohols, although they are neither sugar nor alcohol. They have fewer calories than table sugar and were originally derived from natural sources such as sweet potatoes, pineapples, birch bark or beets.

These compounds are not absorbed well, so they attract water into the lower digestive tract. This can result in cramping and diarrhea if too much is consumed.

Q: I suffer cramps in my fingers. Do you have any remedies for this painful problem?

A: Try holding a bar of soap. As strange as it sounds, some readers report that this is very helpful for hand and finger cramps: “Soap has helped with hand cramps when playing cards. I’ve started carrying one of the small soaps from motels in my purse, and it has certainly come in handy.”

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website:www.peoplespharmacy.org

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