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Dandruff is making my life a misery

I'm a 52-year-old man with bad dandruff. My wife and kids are always on at me to sort it out and I'm quite self-conscious about it. I've tried all the shampoos but nothing works long term.

A: I would recommend that you take one to two teaspoons a day of flaxseed oil. This can be found in healthfood stores and is also sold in capsule form. About three capsules equals one teaspoon of the liquid. I would also recommend that you increase the number of good fats in your diet from oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocadoes and avoid the bad fats found in junk food.

Dandruff may be a sign that circulation is blocked, so you could try massaging the scalp with sesame oil (available in health food stores) for five to 10 minutes once a week. Wash it out afterwards.

Also, if you have a shortage of the minerals zinc, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin C or B vitamins in your diet, then that can also contribute to dandruff, so a balanced diet is essential. I would recommend that you take a good quality multi vitamin and mineral that contains all of the above and biotin which is a significant anti-dandruff vitamin. Food sources of biotin (vitamin B7) include garlic, eggs and liver.

Q: I'm seven months pregnant and planning a home birth. However, I've been told that this may not be an option unless I get my iron levels up. I'm a strict vegan so red meat is just not an option, any suggestions?

A: It is possible to increase your iron levels without having to rely on red meat. I would recommend that you increase your consumption of lentils, kidney beans and black beans. In order to maximise iron absorption, make sure to soak them first and consume them with a source of vitamin C. We need vitamin C to absorb vegetable sources of iron -- squeeze some lemon juice over a lentil soup or add strawberries to a spinach salad for example.

Snack regularly on nuts and seeds such as cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds and, again, soak them over night to maximise iron absorption. Dried fruit such as apricots, dates and prunes contain a reasonable amount of iron as do green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, rocket and swiss chard.

Finally, make sure to avoid tea or coffee for one hour either side of meal times as the tannins can inhibit iron absorption. You could also speak to your doctor about taking an iron supplement.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy are You? on TV3. Elsa offers one-to-one consultations. www.elsajones nutrition.ie