Q: I’ve seen magazine articles encouraging people to avoid wheat because the gluten can cause inflammation.
Is that true? Isn’t gluten only bad for people with a certain disease?
A: We do not all need to avoid gluten — a protein in wheat, rye and barley.
People with celiac disease need to avoid gluten because for them any amount of gluten damages their gut. They often experience digestive discomfort from gluten and even small amounts of gluten can increase their risk of long-term health problems.
Recent research shows that some genetically susceptible people who don’t have celiac disease may have an abnormal immune response to gluten and also experience digestive problems.
This “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” may be related to irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, certain skin conditions, migraines and more.
However, for people who do not have this gluten sensitivity, avoiding gluten offers no benefit. In fact, greater consumption of whole grains — which in the United States often means gluten-containing choices — seems linked with reduced markers of inflammation. The antioxidant phytochemicals in whole grains seem likely to be part of this link between whole grains and lower risk of heart disease, and possibly some types of cancer and other inflammation-related diseases.
Q: I used to enjoy walking on a treadmill, but lately I’m finding it so boring that I’m cutting short my time. Any suggestions?
A: For some people, treadmills are an ideal form of exercise. But even exercise that’s a great fit can get boring over time.
Actually, periodically changing how we get our activity is physically good, because it forces us to recruit slightly different muscles and form new pathways among brain cells.
If you use a treadmill at a gym or fitness center that has other equipment (like some type of stationary bike, a rower or an elliptical trainer), maybe you could use that to replace or alternate with your treadmill time. Or take this time to try out some non-equipment fitness class or recreational sports league.
Check out all the options at local schools, community colleges, Y’s and other fitness centers; consider something brand new to you. Another approach to get past boredom with the treadmill is to change how you use it.
You can make it mentally more interesting by listening to music you love or audio books that you borrow or download from your library. You may find yourself putting in extra time in order to finish an exciting chapter!
If you love technology, see if using a heart rate monitor or pedometer or tracking your treadmill distance and time in an online log adds fun.
Perhaps as you’ve gotten in better shape, your old treadmill routine is not challenging enough anymore.
You can increase the challenge of your treadmill workout by maintaining your usual pace but raising the incline, whether the right point for you is one percent, five percent or beyond. Or try interval training: you can use a pre-set program on the treadmill or create your own by increasing either speed or incline every few minutes and then returning to your baseline.