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Ask Elsa: Hairloss

Q I'M a 34-year-old male who has recently lost a substantial amount of hair. My father and older brother both have a good head of hair so I don't think it's hereditary. My diet is pretty rubbish, though. Could this be contributing to my hair loss?

A A healthy diet is essential to the well-being of all of our body systems, including the growth of hair. Certain vitamins and minerals are particularly beneficial in promoting and stimulating hair growth and keeping hair follicles healthy, so that hair doesn't fall out. They include protein, iron, zinc, silica and B vitamins.

Adequate protein intake is essential for hair growth as hair is made up of protein. Make sure to include one portion of protein with every meal and snack. Sources of animal protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. Try to include vegetable sources of protein into the diet as well, such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. All of the above mentioned foods are also good sources of iron and zinc which are two minerals essential for healthy hair.

A diet that contains whole foods, particularly the outer skin of vegetables such as potatoes, cucumbers, green and red peppers, and sprouts can give strength to hair because they are rich in the mineral silica, which is a major structural component of hair. B vitamins are also vital to the well-being of your hair. Make sure you eat plenty of whole grains and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily -- your hair and your health will thank you for it!

Q I'VE had a couple of bouts of mild cystitis recently, is there anything I can do diet-wise to prevent it from happening again?

A Absolutely, I would recommend that you increase water intake to ensure that the urinary system is properly flushed out. Aim for two litres per day. Begin the day with a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon squeezed into it. Lemon juice changes the PH of the blood and urinary tract so that the bacteria is not able to proliferate.

Reduce acidic foods in the diet and increase alkaline foods. Alkalise the blood with vegetable juices, barley grass, lemon juice, miso soup and plenty of water. Avoid foods which can aggravate urinary tract infections such as alcohol, coffee, soft drinks, oranges, tomatoes, vinegar, yeasts, sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Eat plenty of foods high in anti oxidants such as blueberries, grapes and cranberries. You can add these to smoothies, porridge, juice or fruit salads. Drink pure cranberry juice which contains no added sugar -- this can be bought from health stores. Remember, pure cranberry juice is supposed to be bitter, not sweet.

Cranberry reduces bacteria in the urine and has been shown to inhibit the adherence of bacteria to the urinary tract wall. Cranberry can also be taken in supplement.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy are You? on TV3. Elsa offers individual consultations and group courses.

www.elsajones nutrition.ie