What to do when your brain catches fire


Sorry for the silence. I’ve had a bit of a setback this past week.

My work is seasonal, and the week-before-last was one of those “hair-on-fire” weeks. My brain took the hit, as I worked in excess of 55 hours in five days. I thought I’d gotten through OK, was rather smug about it in fact, but I found myself in the middle of an MS episode last weekend. The symptoms started to cascade: loss of balance, chills and fever, symptoms of food poisoning (sure sign I have an episode in progress), and extreme fatigue.

That means one thing to me: out-of-control inflammation.

So, to calm it down, and avoid the steroid drips, I usually:

  • sleep, sleep and sleep more
  • take more of my anti-inflammatories, such as turmeric, boswellia, and tart cherry
  • drink lots of water, with hyaluronic acid added to a couple of glasses
  • up the vitamin C – which I already take at a high dose
  • drag out the very expensive enzymes, and take five at a time every few hours until things get better[1]
  • plan my next meal (once the gut calms down) to be full of anti-inflammatory ingredients. Sometimes the low-carb rule gets broken; depends on how long I’ve not eaten[2]

I slept about 40 hours between Sunday and Monday, made a simple mung-bean dal on Monday night (probably more carbs in one cup than I’ve eaten in the last six months, but a great carrier for ginger, turmeric, garlic and capsaicin), worked from home on Tuesday, finished the day with a salmon filet crusted with dukkah, and got back in the saddle on Wednesday.

So, yes it was on the tip of my tongue to tell my “you-don’t-look-sick” coworkers that, NO, I COULD NOT put in yet another 11-hour day, but I saved my breath and took the damage.

This, understand is after 8 years of learning what I can and cannot do to help myself. In early days, it would have been a hospital visit, two weeks in bed, and a steroid drip. Since the mega-doses of steroids tended to ruin, well, the better part of the following year for me, I now do other things, anything, to avoid them.

I’ve made some changes to my usual dukkah recipe, mostly because I didn’t have the strength to go downstairs and find the sesame seeds in the other freezer. I made do with what I had within reach. Honestly, I think pistachios are the most important thing, although the sesame seeds shine through the heavy spices. The low and slow method for cooking salmon is from Geoffrey Zakarian.[3] You’ll never go back once you try this technique.

Hair-on-Fire Salmon

Cook your salmon slowly, on a low temperature to preserve the healthy omegas. Very little white stuff should come out of the salmon. In fact, if you look at the before and after pics below, it’s hard to tell the salmon is cooked.

Contributed by mscellenea on Crossgrained.

Published 26. Sept. 2015


  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 filet salmon
  • parchment paper
  • dukkah (recipe below)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat oven to 250 F. Yup, I said 250 F.
  • Put a sheet of parchment paper slightly bigger than your fish filet on a baking sheet.
  • Bush melted butter onto the paper, in an approximate shape of your filet. Season the butter with salt and pepper
  • Place filet skin-side down on top of the buttered paper.
  • Brush more butter on the top of the fish
  • Season the buttered fish with salt and pepper.
  • Pile on some dukkah, as much as will fit.
  • Bake until you can flake it easily with a fork. This size filet took about 30 minutes (things go slowly at 250 F. That’s the point.)

Further details

Enough for a single serving.

Preparation time is approximately 35 minutes, including cooking

Add about 5 minutes to prepare the dukkah.

Chia Dukkah

Dukkah is usually made with pistachios, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, and the spices listed below. Since, after all, my hair was on fire, I made do with the nuts and seeds I had in the kitchen fridge, without having to go look for sesame seeds in the downstairs freezer.

Contributed by mscellenea on Crossgrained.

Published 26. Sept. 2015

Black gold. Chia dukkah. Tell your kid's it's dirt. More for you.
Black gold. Chia dukkah. Tell your kids it’s dirt. More for you.
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 3/4 cup chia seeds
  • 5 tbsp ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp ground cumin


  • Pulse the nuts and seeds in a food processor until the mix resembles coarse bread crumbs. A few larger pieces are OK–they actually make it more interesting.
  • Pulse in the spices.
  • Place mixture in a glass container and store in the freezer.

Further details

Makes about 3 cups, loosely packed.

Preparation time is approximately 5 minutes.

Delicious on other types of fish and baked chicken.

[1] I discovered this fix in a book by Ann Boroch, Healing Multiple Sclerosis: Diet, Detox, and Nutritional Makeover for Total Recovery, Quintessential Healing, Inc.; 2014 edition (March 1, 2013). Although these enzymes were originally designed for digestive problems, taking them on an empty stomach can help knock out inflammation. Back in the bad old days, I took 3-5 of them twice a day. Now, I keep them around for emergencies.

[2] Another great resource is Julie Daniluk’s Meals that Heal Inflammation, Hayhouse, Inc., 2012. Although she embraces ingredients I don’t usually eat: soy, legumes, grains–her book is aimed at people with food intolerances and allergies, and is a good guide to an elimination diet.

[3] 250 Fahrenheit is a very low temperature for protein. I learned this trick from Geoffrey Zakarian on The Kitchen. You know that white stuff that oozes out of the salmon when you bake it? Those are the good fats being wrung out by the protein contracting too fast. Chef Zakarian describes it as evidence that the salmon is weeping. Cook low and slow and that good fat stays in the fish and goes into your belly. Don’t make your fish cry.


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