Dr harold Gunatillake

Do you take enough Potassium in your daily diet? – Good advice by Dr Harold

Your mind goes always to find whether there is too much of cholesterol in the food you eat, but you never think whether you are taking enough potassium in your food. It is a mineral that is required adequately for metabolic processes and for the cells to work normally to keep you healthy. It makes the cells make electricity to function efficiently. You know it is that electricity produced in the cells that is used to check your workings of your heart efficiently through reading the wave lengths in an ‘electrocardiograph (ECG) tracing. Your nerves and muscles need sufficient potassium for them to function normally and efficiently.

For a day an adult should take 4,700 milligrams of potassium. For children up to six months need 400 milligrams: kids up to one year needs 700 milligrams: from 1 year to three years need 3,000milligrams: 4 to 8 years -3,800 milligrams and young teenagers need about 4,500 milligrams. Those young people participating in active sports may need supplementation.

Meat is acid and cause inflammation in your body when you eat daily, in excess. Too much of acidic foods can weaken the bones (osteoporosis) and taking adequate amount of potassium rich foods can slow down that process.

Eating too much of acidic foods can give rise to kidney stones. Taking adequate potassium in your food seem to prevent such stone formation.
For you muscles to work efficiently you need to take adequate amount of potassium in your food. Body builders need more than sedentary workers.
Potassium seems to get rid of excess sodium that you invariably consume as salt in your daily food. Taking adequate amount of potassium keeps your arteries flexible preventing high blood pressure. You need to keep your blood vessels healthy and elastic to prevent heart attacks and stroke.
Now, what are the fruits that have adequate potassium: a single medium banana has 422 milligrams of potassium. It is advisable to add slices of cut bananas in your breakfast cereal, including oats.

Oranges seem to have about 237 milligrams of potassium per fruit.

Further, foods that contain high potassium levels are: Avocado: Spinach, Sweet potato, Wild-caught salmon, Dried apricots, Pomegranate and coconut water.

Tomatoes have high potassium (292 milligrams). In the cooking process you may lose most of it. Add to salads and sandwiches. A cup of tomato puree has 1,065 milligrams and a cup of the paste has 2,455 milligrams.

Potatoes have lot of potassium. They are good for you, unless you have diabetes. A medium size baked potato with skin has approximately 900 milligrams of potassium. Sri Lankans seem to eat a lot of potatoes in curry-form. Cooked potato curries may have less potassium than the bakes ones. Chips deep fried in oil may lose its potassium. Always enjoy baked chips, quite nutritious and retains potassium.

Remember potassium is required inside the cell, and sodium in the salt you consume settles outside in the extra-cellular fluid. Excess salt consumption in your food can lead to fluid collection in your extra-cellular spaces and cause swelling (oedema) of your dependant legs and feet. In heart failure too, there is fluid retention and you need to go on a low salt diet.

Dried prunes you take for constipation has 637 milligrams of potassium and high fibre too, works well for constipation.
You may need to take potassium supplements when your doctor puts you on diuretics like frusemide, do not take too much of potassium as it can cause gastro-intestinal upsets, ulcers and lose stools.

If you lack potassium due to excess loss or inadequate intake from food, your muscles can go weak and walking will be an effort. You may get cramps in your calf muscles, and constipation due to loss of tone in the smooth muscles in your gut.
Be aware that consuming alcohol daily in excess can lead to loss of potassium. Too much of potassium in your cells can also give rise to similar symptoms as in hypokalaemia: irregular heart-beats, weak muscles. In chronic kidney failure there is retention of potassium in your blood and you may need dialysis to clean your blood.

Certain drugs may decrease potassium excretion, includes: Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, ACE inhibitors and Angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) taken for high blood pressure: and a few others.
To check on your blood potassium level which reflects on the intra-cell amount, your doctor will do the electrolytes assay on you blood on annual check-up.

Conclusions: Be aware that your tiredness, weakness of muscles, and lack of energy to work may be due to insufficient potassium in your cells. Eating bananas daily may be the solution.

Some reference to WebMD

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Health care systems compared – developing country like Sri Lanka & a developed country like Australia – Written by Dr Harold Gunatillake-Health writer

There is no similarity the way the two health systems have evolved, but the socio-economic factor is key to the dissimilarity.

Sri Lanka has no planned universal health scheme, except for free government hospital care, and Australia on the contrary has a most efficient universal public health care plan to cover health-care of all citizens. The Australian Government’s funding contributions include a universal public health insurance scheme, Medicare. Medicare was introduced in 1984 to provide free or subsidized access to public hospital services and to treatment by health professionals (including doctors, optometrists and some other health professionals) Both countries have public hospital delivery systems rendering a free medical system – preventative and curative to the needy public.

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Let’s discuss about foods high in saturated fat – Good advice from Dr Harold

“Do not be afraid of eating fatty foods, because- your body needs fat. It gives you shape, controls your temperature, helps absorption of fat soluble vitamins, among other benefits and your excess fat is stored in fat cells as triglycerides. The question is how much to eat. If you are active and exercise daily, it does not matter because fat will be utilized to provide energy. It is the sedentary individual who needs to restrict”.

Fats are all composed of fatty acid chains. These are carbon atom chains linked with hydrogen atoms on either side to balance and at the two ends there are CHO molecules.

Saturated fats have all the carbon atoms filled with hydrogen links, with no vacancies. So, we call them saturated.

It is a type of fat that is solid at room temperature. If you purchase coconut oil that is liquid at room temperature it is processed- don’t buy. It should be solid and only could be scooped out. Lard, butter, coconut oil is solid at room temperature, and it is advisable to consume in small quantities. You should eat only about 22 grams a day, that is about 10 per cent of the total calories per day, (200 calories per day in a 2000 calorie diet). Too much consumption of saturated fats increases your bad cholesterol in your body, and you also put on additional weight.

Do not worry about cholesterol in your foods like eggs, butter, dairy products and sea food. Truly you should be concerned about the saturated fat content in the products, including the carbs and sugars. The latter too ends up in your fat cells and liver as triglycerides, with the help of insulin.
One piece of cheese pizza has 10 grams of saturated fats.

Ice cream is full of saturated fat and sugar. It is advisable for health reasons to avoid as much as possible. In the US. 3,000 people die of listeria poisoning from eating ice cream, because this germ loves ice cream just as you like it.

Yogurt is also composed of saturated fat, but you could choose the low fat and unsweetened Greek style ones that are good for you. Further, yogurt is a pro-biotic- meaning has got certain good gut bacteria beneficial for health and well-being. Go for it every day.

Chicken is white meat but still have saturated fat. If you like chicken it is a good idea to stick to chicken breast which has little saturated fat. It has only 1 gram per serving.

Milk has saturated fat, but you could choose the non-fat pasteurized milk powder which has vitamin A, D and calcium as the fresh milk.
Beware of Pizza’s. One piece of cheese pizza has 10 grams of fat, and a significant number of calories- about 240 Cals. It has high sodium content (410.0 mg) and total carbs about 30g, and dietary fibre almost nil. It is equivalent to eating 15 chips (French fries). Nevertheless, they are nutritious: contains Vitamin A, B12, B6, D, E Calcium, Copper, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Zinc, Thiamine, Riboflavin and so on.

Pork seems to be added to lots of foods for taste. Even a slice of bacon in an omelette tastes better than without. Furthermore, pork is cheap in the supermarkets, and lots of people go for it. The fat content in pork chops is very high. There are saturated fats in the skin, under the skin and within the muscles, and in 4 ounces, with bone, broiled or baked has 12 grams of fat. Large chops have as much as 18.50 grams of saturated fat.

Are saturated fats bad for your heart?

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Seniors- Open -Day organized by the Sri Lanka Association of NSW,Australia (Video by Dr Harold Gunatillake)

This is a monthly event organized by the Association to show gratitude for the Senior Sri Lankans’ for their services rendered in the past. This current event was on 4th April, at the Leisure Centre in Pennant Hills, and filmed by Dr Harold Gunatillake- Please share and enjoy- 9 minutes of fun.


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About Bread you purchase – Good advice from Dr Harold


The brown bread you buy from the bakery or supermarket may not be whole meal. Molasses or other things can give bread a brown colour. Always read the ingredient list.

The word “whole” should always appear before the name of the grain, such as whole wheat, whole oats, or whole rye. And it should be the first thing on the ingredient list.

Don’t be misled by labels that say “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “100% wheat,” “cracked wheat,” or “seven-grain.” These usually aren’t whole grain.

Warning: Putting bread in the fridge will make it go stale quicker.

Storage: Bread from the grocery store will stay fresh for 2 to 4 days if you leave it on the counter. Bakery bread, which usually has fewer preservatives, will keep 1 to 3 days.
If you want to store bread for a longer, put it in the freezer. It will stay fresh for 2 to 3 months.
Loading lot of salt: If you eat toast in the morning, a sandwich at lunch, and a roll with dinner, you’re not just loading up on carbohydrates. You’re also eating a lot of salt.
Most people get too much salt. When it comes to food sources, bread and rolls are the No. 1 source, beating out chips and other junk food.
A single slice of bread isn’t high in salt. A slice of wheat bread has about 147mg sodium. Eating bread several times a day adds up. Too much salt raises blood pressure. It can put you at risk of heart attack or stroke.

Enriched bread: The word “enriched’ appears on white bread and other bread products made from refined grains. Refining helps make bread light and airy and gives it a longer shelf life.
But it also strips away fibre, iron, and many B vitamins. “Enriched” just means that B vitamins and iron are added back after refining. But fibre may not be added back to “enriched” breads. Fibre is found in bread made with whole grains though, so that’s your healthier choice.

When you go to Sri Lanka, you’ll be eating white bread: whole meal bread is not popular and scarce.

New thought on white bread compared to wheat bread.

For some people study suggests that blood sugar levels did not rise- a process called the glycaemic response) with white bread or leavened wheat bread. The researchers found that there were individual variations and the blood sugar level did not rise comparable to the wheat whole meal bread. What it means is that the glycaemic responses, different people respond differently to the same kind of bread “In a broader sense, what this means is that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ diets that are given to the population as a whole, without personalization, are probably not optimal for everyone,” added study co-author Dr Eran Elinav, who’s also from the Weitzman Institute.

At the same time epidemiological studies has shown that people eating whole grain breads have reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heat disease, inflammation, obesity and certain cancers.

Some believe that wholemeal bread contains less calories than white bread. However, they contain the same number of calories. What makes brown or whole meal bread better than white is the fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients found in the outer layer of the grain.

Fibber in wholemeal bread maintains a healthy stable blood sugar level leading to a feeling of satiety, due to slower digestion and absorption. Toasting bread removes the water from the bread and does not affect the micronutrients.

Over toasting and blackening of bread can lead to certain chemicals formation that can cause cancer.

Overall, it is advisable to stick to whole meal bread, though the taste is lesser, and the cost is more.

(Some reference to WebMD article)

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