Dr harold Gunatillake

DR HAROLD GUNATILLAKE – By – Agnes Thambynayagam

Dr Harold Gunatillake is a humanitarian who tirelessly publishes Health and Views publication every week and circulates to nearly six thousand Sri Lankan expatriates who live all over the world. I came to know Doctor Harold in April 2013 when a Sri Lankan forwarded me Harold’s Health and Views publication. The publication not only carried health advice but also news about Sri Lankans who were affected by civil war. There was a story about Jaffna where I grew up and studied in the issue that I first received. We became friends when I started sending my comments to Harold on his publication.

Harold was born on December 7, 1929 at Hapugala in the suburb of Galle, Sri Lanka. He is two years younger than my mother in law and eight years younger than my mother. So, initially, I started calling him uncle Harold. He wrote to me, ‘Agnes, please call me Harold’. Harold is a Sinhalese from southern Sri Lanka and I’m a Tamil from northern Sri Lanka. Even though I never spoke Sinhala language, the modern technology with email service in English language made us to become good friends.

Harold has been helping the underprivileged children in Sri Lanka. He once carried solar powered lamps to illuminate the area where women and children lived in small huts in the forests of Kilinochchi. He continuously campaigns through his publication to raise awareness for the need to care for people who are destitute.

Harold’s father’s ambition and hard work set an example for Harold to work hard on his studies. His parents moved to Kandy when Harold was four years old. Harold went to Dharmarajah College, Kandy for primary school and Ananda College, Colombo for secondary school. His determination and hard work took him to Medical College at the University of Colombo in 1950.

Harold met the seventeen-year-old beauty Queen Irangani Sirimanne who had finished High school at the Bishop’s College, at a friend’s birthday party in Colombo. He was a third-year medical student at that time. Irangani was a model for Kirthi Karunaratne, the pioneer dress designer in the fifties. Harold and Irangani fell in love and started courting. He successfully passed his MBBS exam in 1956. Harold married his sweetheart Irangani on May 1st, 1958 at Mt Lavinia Hotel, Colombo. Their precious only son Hiran was born on May 20, 1959 in Hiniduma, Galle where Harold started working. They sent Hiran to St. Thomas College, Kollupitiya for early education when the family moved to Colombo.

Harold’s wife Irangani was elected as the Royal Queen at the Colombo Royal College Ball in 1962 at the presence of the Honorable Minister of Finance Dr. N.M. Perera. Her prize was a trip to Bombay. Harold joined his beautiful wife Irangani on that trip. Irangani was asked to sing for Radio India during their trip. Harold was very proud to see his wife singing ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Danny Boy’ for Radio India. His relentless and continuous support for his wife to participate in modeling and beauty pageants made crowning of Irangani became a routine event in Colombo at Grand Oriental and Galle Face Hotels.

Harold and Irangani moved to London with their son Hiran in 1965 when Harold won a scholarship to do further studies on surgery. In 1967, the Ceylon Tea cooperation in London bestowed Irangani with the title of ‘Ceylon Tea Queen’, a title that elevated her esteemed standing in Sri Lanka to an even higher level. While Harold was focused in his studies, Irangani became a symbol of her country internationally. Irangani Sirimanne Gunatillake represented the Ceylon Tea Cooperation in London at its centenary celebrations in Glasgow, Scotland where she met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth and Her Majesty Queen Mother. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II spent about half an hour talking to Irangani about Sri Lanka.

Harold completed his studies and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS), United Kingdom in 1968. Their son Hiran finished his primary education at Carshalton primary school in England. The family returned to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1969; Harold was appointed general Surgeon at Colombo General Hospital and Badulla. Hiran was back at St. Thomas College, Colombo.

The Gunatillake family migrated to Singapore in 1972 where Harold worked as Senior Registrar in Surgery. In many occasions, Harold and Irangani were the guests of then Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. One of Harold’s proudest moments in life was to see his wife dance with Lee Chin Koon, the father of the legendary Lee Kuan Yew. The family migrated to Australia in 1974. Catastrophic tragedy struck in December 1975. Sadly, they lost their precious sixteen-year-old son at a motorcar accident along with two other teenagers. Hiran was a back-seat passenger.

Harold and Irangani, now married for 62 years, spend the twilight of their life together in Sydney, Australia. Harold enjoys publishing the Health and Views news online every week, which has a readership of over six thousand. Harold and his wife, the former beauty queen Irangani, an epitome of “enormous capacity” to love and give, have changed the lives of so many in need in Sri Lanka: both in the South and the North. They are an inspiration to all of us.

May God shower this remarkable couple with blessing for many more years! Happy 90th Birthday Harold! Michael and I love you and Irangani very much. Our prayers and best wishes are with you while you celebrate your ninetieth birthday with friends.

A very happy Birthday Harold! from all at eLanka!

Harold Gunatillake Harold Gunatillake Harold Gunatillake Harold Gunatillake Harold Gunatillake Harold Gunatillake Harold Gunatillake Harold Gunatillake Harold Gunatillake Harold Gunatillake

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Watch the Video – Ceylon Society of Australia (Sydney chapter) – Dinner and social at the Pennant Hills – 30th November 2019 – Filmed by Harold Gunatillake

This is a film taken at the Ceylon Society of Australia Dinner and social at the Pennant Hills, Community centre, Sydney. Over 200 members participated.

This video is all about the CEYLON SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA (Sydney) Dinner and Social event on 30th November 2019.

Venue: Pennant Hills Community Centre.

A very relaxed enjoyable evening for over 200 members and guests

The participants had all the time to chit chat and have a laugh, and the buffet dinner was exquisite provided by “Dish”

Music was provided by Roger Menzies.

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Food Experience-By Harold Gunatillake


Memorable patronage on Sunday for Spicy Sri Lankan
cuisine at the newly opened restaurant in
Toongabbie, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, named
A great culinary experience.
Do make a visit.
Easy street parking on Sundays.

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Do Sri Lankans & others living in tropical countries need calcium and vitamin D supplements? – by Harold Gunatillake

If you suffer from Osteoporosis, common cause of chronic aches & pain as you age,see your doctor. He or she will do bone density nuclear studies and Bone Mineral Densitometry (DEXA).

Website: www.doctorharold.com

There is no need for any healthy active person to take calcium supplements daily, because you take enough in your milk and other dairy products, leafy greens, seafood, legumes, dried fruits, tofu and various foods that are fortified with calcium.

This is because taking calcium supplements lacks the effectiveness to prevent fractures in old people.

Taking daily calcium supplements may produce constipation.

Professor Ian Reid and Associate Professor Mark Boland of University of Auckland once wrote that calcium supplements were not needed in healthy individuals, nor were they required in most people being treated for

vitamin D supplements


On the other hand, vitamin D supplements help in the prevention of osteo-malacia (softening of bones), especially those who are not exposed to direct sunlight.

For bone weakness without taking calcium supplements, you may start taking bisphosphonates, romosozumab that inhibits bone resorption and stimulate bone formation.

Professor Reid seem to think that calcium and vitamin D supplements may be used in conjunction with the above drugs for osteoporosis.

Do dark pigmented people like Asians and Sri Lankans get enough sunlight to make vitamin D as much as the non-pigmented people?

Pigment melanin seem to reduce the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to exposure to the sun. Furthermore, Sri Lankans and other Asians in the tropical belts, avoid being in the sun due to high degree of humidity and heat which makes exposure very uncomfortable. They do not believe in the traditional sunbathing as the non-pigment individuals.

This vitamin is also called “sunshine vitamin” because it’s manufactured in our skin in response to direct sunlight. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it gets absorbed through the gut in the presence of fatty foods.

It is known that vitamin D insufficiency is more prevalent among African Americans. They do not achieve optimal 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25 (OH)) concentrations primarily due to the thick melanin layer in the basal layers of the outer skin (epidermis). In Sri Lanka, Rodrigo et. al. has reported that 56% of the premenopausal women have vitamin D level less than 35 nmols/L in the Southern coastal belts of the country.

A survey done by Meyer HE, Holvik K, Lofthus CM and Tennakoon SU, observed that Sri Lankans in Norway had substantially lower levels of s-25(OH) serum 25- hydroxyvitamin D than in a group in Kandy, further the levels among Sri Lankans in Kandy was lowest during the months of August and September after the SW monsoon rains, when there is very little sunlight due to the heavy clouds.

In the developed countries like Australia, the doctors seem to request for blood vitamin D levels routinely, when checking for lipids and other biochemical investigations. However, in Asian countries including Sri Lanka, such routine tests are not done for obvious reason, being the cost factor.

Knowing one’s vitamin D level is important as enough levels keep you healthy preventing many diseases. It maintains strong bones. Lower levels of vitamin D is found in people who fractures their weight bearing bones with the slight slip and fall.

The incidence of such fractures, especially the neck of the femur is quite common among the elderly people in Sri Lanka, and they have pins(Smith Peterson) inserted to strengthen those bones, at a very high cost to the patients and the government if you are a public individual not having funds to enter the private hospitals.

Lower vitamin D levels seems to be present among those people suffering from depression.

Vitamin D boosts weight loss and required for normal growth and development of bones and teeth.

It regulates the calcium and phosphorus absorption through your gut. What this means is that lack of dietary vitamin D may prevent absorption of calcium in your gut. Your body gets its vitamin D from your food, supplements and through the skin exposure to the direct sunlight.

Vitamin D also boosts your immune system and prevents the risk of developing certain diseases. A large-scale meta-analysis using more than 10,000 participants concludes that vitamin D supplementation may help to prevent a major cause of global death from acute respiratory infections, by boosting the immune system.

The other benefits are- reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis, heart disease and help to reduce your likelihood of developing the flu during flu epidemics, so frequent in Sri Lanka.

Scientists have done research on the role of vitamin D on the prevention of colorectal cancer and the results are promising. It is also observed that taking higher levels of vitamin D is linked with a lower chance of getting the disease.

It is also observed that intake of vitamin D supplements and diet may protect against breast cancer and improves markers of prostate cancer.

The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency includes:

General tiredness, aches and pains in your joints. Difficulty in climbing steps. Bone and muscle pain and cramps.

If you have any of the above symptoms, do not neglect and say just “old age”, check your blood vitamin D level. Levels below 30 nmol/L of serum 25- hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) may need vitamin D supplements.

Taking excess of vitamin D being fat soluble may accumulate in your liver and may produce toxicity. Vitamin D levels above 100ng/ml (250 nmol/L) are potentially harmful.

Bottom line:
People in Sri Lanka though being in a “sunshine country” and other migrated dark skin people including Sri Lankans in other countries, should check their vitamin D levels annually.

There is no necessity to take daily calcium supplements, dietary calcium is enough for daily requirement.

Hope this article was useful.

Ref: Calcium and vitamin D -InSight+ -Issue 45/18 Nov 2019

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Reminiscing – By Harold Gunatillake


“When I was 15, a man of thirty I would call ‘Uncle” because he was old to me and through a mark of traditional respect. When I became fifty, a man of ninety was very old to me. But on the 7th of December this year, I would be ninety and I don’t feel old.

Joan Collins said, ”Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine”.

Some of my friends say, ”I am only 18 and the rest 72 is experience”.

I was born in a little hamlet called “Hapugala” in the Galle district, and at the age of 4, my family migrated to the hill capital-Kandy 1,700 ft above sea level. That’s we are still, except my second life in Sydney, Australia.

Dec. 7th 1929, happened to be a Saturday, and this year my celebration falls on the same day, a Saturday. That coincidence is auspicious to me.

Let me now take you back to the nineteen thirties, life then, as my memory remembers, before most of you friends and acquaintances were  born.

We had no antibiotics. Just imagine the health risks people had to face globally. Alexander Flemings discovered that mushroom named penicillium only a year before I was born, that was 1928, but the antibiotic was not marketed till 1945 towards the end of the World War 11.

We had two drugs that stopped the growth of bacteria: sulphadiazine for general infections and suphadimidine for gastric upsets.

As I remember the most serious illness then was double pneumonia and when you are hospitalized for this serious illness, you do not come home

Heart disease was unheard of. It was described by Ancel Key in the fifties.

There was no place for heart disease then, our mothers’ cooked healthy foods at home. and we never ate those present day foods saturated with fat, salt and added sugar- out in the restaurants that did not exist, like today. In fact, there were no restaurants or street food outlets then. The only hotels were the South Indian hotels, we called “Saivar kades”. They were most unclean eating houses, we invariably bought the Dosai and idly, as take a ways to enjoy at home.

We had no big cars, except for the ‘Baby Austin’s”. To start the car you need to crank-shaft through

the front grills. You rotate the gadget many a times till you hear the start noise, or it may rebound and

hurt your shoulder to delay your trip by hours till the pain subsides.

We had no refrigerators. We bought large ice blocks wrapped in saw dust to prevent melting, and my

mother used to have a wooden box where meat and fish were stored with these ice blocks.

We had no air conditioners, except for fans.

We had the Bell type of telephones that gave problems most times.

Short messages were sent on postcards by post, unlike today free text messaging is so convenient and quick.

I am happy to be with you today, enjoying all the “High Tech” advances that has made our lives more comfortable. Today, if I want to contact someone locally or overseas, I just press a few buttons on my smartphone and wallah, I chat with my friend for hours, through whatsApp or Viber.

During the thirties, I remember we used to make a communication device with two empty match boxes and a taught thread to talk to other kids within a few feet away. That was then.

We should be not complacent with the wonderful life we all have today, because tomorrow will be different.

Disastrous climate changes will affect us all.

In 2016, Prof Hawking said it was a “near certainty” that sometime in the next 10,000 years, humanity would be faced with a global disaster. I am sorry to say that it is now at our door step.

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What does the Pancreas do for you? by Dr. Harold Gunatillake



Pancreas is an organ which supports your digestive and endocrine systems. It manufactures enzymes that helps digestion of the major nutrients, includes Carbs, Fats, and Proteins. It makes insulin and glucagon which ensures the
right amount of blood glucose

Pancreas is elongated tapered organ the shape of a banana, located at the back of the abdominal cavity behind the stomach. On the right side is the head and the first part of the small gut the duodenum extending from the stomach, encircles the head of the pancreas.

The pancreas in addition to its head has a body and tail segments. The bile duct which conveys bile for digestion of dietetic fat including cholesterol, runs through the head of the pancreas to open into the second part of the duodenum.The main pancreatic duct also joins the common bile duct close to the duodenal gut, expanding into an ampulla.

Let’s talk about the purpose of the pancreatic organ in the body

Two functions of the pancreas are:

Endocrine– means the enzymes enter the blood stream directly from the gland, like insulin a chemical (hormone) that regulate blood sugar. The gland produces glucagon also to control and regulate the blood sugar.

Exocrine functions: The pancreas produces enzymes that help digest our food.They pass through the pancreatic duct into the gut to aid in digestion of food.

They are protected in capsules to prevent damage to the pancreas and cause inflammation (pancreatitis), in case they rupture.

They are-pancreatic amylase that breakdown carbohydrates. Protease breakdown proteins into amino acids. Lipase breaks down fat These exocrine enzymes are wrapped in a protective layer while they are in the pancreas to reach the gut. Once they are out of the pancreas the protective layer is removed and the enzymes become active The gland makes about 2.2 pints of enzymes a day for the digestion of regular three meals you consume.

About 5 percent of the secretion is insulin secreted in the islet cells, which regulates the sugar level in the blood in addition to other functions.

“Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

If the pancreas does not make enough enzymes that your body needs to break
down and absorb nutrients and can’t absorb fats, some vitamins and minerals
from foods, is referred to as “Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). You will
pass undigested food into the colon and you will become weak and malnourished within a few days.

There are pancreatic enzymes in drug form to be given in such situations.
The protease enzyme the gland secretes include trypsin and chymotrypsin to
breakdown proteins.

Amylase is an enzyme secreted by the pancreas to breakdown carbohydrates. When amylose content in some foods like basmati rice is high, the digestion and absorption get slower and hence the rice has a lower glycaemic index
of 59, suitable for people having diabetes. Also, the amylose content is high in long grain rice like the Australian produce ‘Dongara’. When the amylose content is high when cooked rice is firm and dry.

The round grain sambas have an intermediate amylose content tends to be softer and stickier, and waxy rice has a zero-amylose content and is often referred to as sticky rice or Jasmine rice. These rices get absorbed fast and
the glycaemic index is over 80.

The salivary glands that secrete saliva also produce salivary amylase which breaks down amylose in the chewed carbs into smaller chains of glucose, called dextrin and maltose.

Amylase seem to work in the alkaline media and no digestion of carbs occur in the acidic media in the stomach.

In the small gut pancreatic amylase breaks down starch which has many molecules of glucose into a simple sugar- glucose.

Enzymes Trypsin and Chymotrypsin

Trypsin breakdown proteins into smaller peptides and the latter are then further hydrolysed into amino acids.

Chymotrypsin is selective. They select aromatic amino acids such as phenylalanine, tryptophan and tyrosine


Lipase is another enzyme made in the pancreas and it break down fats into fatty acids and cholesterol. They participate in the role of digestion, transport and processing of dietary lipids, such as triglycerides, fats and oils used in cooking and frying.

Insulin secretion

The islet cells secrete insulin and other hormones. Insulin regulates the blood sugar level in non-diabetics and diabetics may need to be supplemented to maintain a blood sugar within the normal range.

In diabetes, insufficient insulin is secreted, or more will be formed if there is a
condition called insulin resistance.

Obesity seems to be one of the main causes of insulin resistance. By slimming you increase your insulin sensitivity.

When the blood sugar falls the pancreas also secrete and release a hormone called glucagon.

Glucagon helps to maintain the blood sugar level by releasing sugar from the liver stores.

You will now realise the importance of having a well-functioning pancreas for digestion and absorption of food for health and wellbeing.


Your pancreas can get inflamed. This condition could be acute or chronic.Acute could be due to a minute stone obstructing the pancreatic duct. Intense pain in the upper belly (epigastrium) could be due to acute pancreatitis. It can also be caused due to a gallstone obstructing the common bile and pancreatic duct near the entrance of ducts to the duodenum.

Other causes of acute pancreatitis are medications, autoimmune disease,
infections, trauma, metabolic disorders and after surgery.Chronic pancreatitis is a situation where the pancreatic enzymes start working within the gland without being released to the gut. Heavy drinking could be a factor.Increased levels of triglycerides in your blood or an immune system disorder can also cause chronic pancreatitis.

Cystic fibrosis

In cystic fibrosis the body makes unusually thick sticky mucus due to a genetic disorder affecting mostly the lungs, pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestine. Long term, the person finds it difficult to breath, and coughing up thick mucus. The condition is diagnosed by doing a sweat test and genetic testing. The condition is treated with antibiotics and pancreatic enzyme replacement.

Life expectancy is less than 40 years Early sigs include salty sweat, poor growth and weight gain. Constant coughing and wheezing are features.

The other inherited condition of the pancreas is Schwachman-Diamond
syndrome. In this condition less pancreatic enzymes are secreted due to missing cells in the pancreas.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is quite common among Sri Lankans. Diets high in red meat consumption and eating fried foods and nitrosamines may increase risk of cancer. Diets high in fruits and vegetables seem to reduce the risk of pancreatic cnacer.

Cancer of the pancreas could occur following pancreatitis, diabetes, family
history of genetic syndromes that can increase cancer risk, including a BRCA2
gene mutation.

High blood sugar raises the risk of pancreatic cancer- one of the deadliest forms of the disease.

Life threatening tumours are more common in people with hyperglycaemia
Research has shown that high blood sugar could increase the risk of pancreatic cancer A study of more than 25million people found the killer disease is more common in adults with hyperglycaemia

Earl symptoms of cancer of the pancreas are:

Yellow discolouration of the eyes due to jaundice caused due to an obstruction in the biliary canals.

Weight loss and poor appetite and upper abdominal pain are early symptoms.
Research has shown that obese men and women have a high chance of getting
pancreatic cancer. Chronic heavy alcohol use is also a cause of both pancreatitis and cancer.

Final Note

Hope you enjoyed watching this you tu.be. It is important that you grasp the essence and add on to enrich your lifestyle. All cancers are preventable, except those ones that are hereditary.

It is our tasty addictive dietary indulges and sedentary lifestyles, getting obese and lack of exercise that are main culprits for these dreaded diseases.

Walking daily 10,000 steps may reduce the incidence. Try and eat home cooked foods, with less salt, less oil and unprocessed.
Take care
Goodbye for now

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Dish hopper night – Video by Dr. Harold Gunatillake

Hoppers attract Sri Lankans’ globally. It was a staple food originated in Kerala called “appam”. The main ingredients in the batter are coconut milk, rice flour, yeast, water and sugar. It is kept overnight to ferment and the batter would be ready. This Hopper Nite was organised by Manjula, the owner of “Dish” restaurant in Glebe, Sydney. Filmed by Dr. Harold Gunatillake.


Organised by Manjula, owner of “Dish” Restaurant In Glebe, Sydney.

Held at Don Moore Community Centre on

The 8th. November 2019

Well attended event

Please share the video

Dr. Harold Gunatillake

Website: www.doctorharold.com

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