Fibromyalgia and Food Labeling

Fibromyalgia and Food Labeling

Christine Tender Points
Given the sensitivity of my body, and particularly my digestive system, I try to avoid ingesting unnecessary chemicals. I’m grateful for our government’s requirement to list the ingredients contained in the foods I buy, and to list them by order of amount. I’m an ardent label reader and I’ve made it a point to learn what all the terminology means.

For example, “All Natural” is not as healthy as it sounds. Historically, the FDA defined that term to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives, regardless of source) had been included in, or added to, a food that normally would not be expected to be in that food. However, the introduction of genetic engineering (GMO foods) and the inclusion of high-fructose corn syrup have caused considerable concern about this definition. The argument about whether those items should be labeled as “natural” is yet to be decided in federal court.

One would think a product labeled “organic” would be completely safe. When it comes to produce and meat, it is. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines organic produce as “grown without synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or genetically modified organisms.” Meat that’s labeled organic must come from animals that received no antibiotics or hormones and ate 100 percent organic food. This is as helpful as it gets!

The problem arises with packaged foods. There, if the label says “100% organic,” it contains only organic ingredients. But, if the label says only “organic,” it means that 95 percent of the ingredients are organic. It’s anybody’s guess what the other 5 percent might be. This is slightly concerning.

Here’s what’s even worse. “Made with organic ingredients” means that only 70 percent of the contents must be organic. That means that 30 percent of what I’m eating could be pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or worse.

Being both gluten- and wheat-sensitive means there’s an additional label for me to read. I try to buy as many gluten-free items as possible. Unfortunately, the selection is limited and pricey. If I don’t find an affordable gluten-free version of what I want, I rely on ingredient lists. This is where the system has failed me. The food industry has invented clever words to disguise the wheat and gluten contained in their products. Common ingredients such as maltodextrin (a thickener and/or preservative) can be made from rice, corn, potatoes, or wheat. Sometimes, even the manufacturer doesn’t know which one. So, although no wheat or gluten are listed as ingredients in the product I’m buying, I might be getting it anyway.

Actually, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m only wheat and gluten “sensitive” rather than being “allergic” to those things or being a celiac patient. A tiny amount of either substance ingested occasionally will not be an overwhelming problem for me. Other folks cannot say this.

Of course, home-cooked food made with organic ingredients is the healthiest option for everyone. Organic coconut or nut flours are substituted easily for wheat, but are way too pricey to be marketed commercially. For a healthier person or for someone who cooks for enjoyment, recipes are readily available. For a fibromite like me who dislikes cooking and whose energy is depleted long before dinner, the evening meal is a challenge.

If I were a single woman, I easily could enjoy an organic vegetarian diet. Products containing gluten or unwanted chemicals would never be an issue. However, my husband does not share my love of vegetables. He’s the quintessential “meat and potatoes man.” He also does not cook.

The salvation for us has been a recently opened grocery store near our home. Their already roasted chickens contain no antibiotics or hormones and are delicious. In addition to having a meal of roasted chicken, organic mashed potatoes, and organic vegetables, I’ve prepared that bird in 500 different ways requiring 15 minutes of preparation or less. I’ve then used the leftovers in 500 additional ways. My recent resolve to exercise more is an effort to increase my energy level at the end of the day. We need a more varied menu. Without it, we might sprout feathers soon.


Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.


  1. Loraine says:

    Well written article. I am also gluten sensitive as well as dairy sensitive. The items that I choose to help me with these sensitivities are pricey indeed. Fortunately I am retired so cooking is easier for me. I have been experimenting with lots of gluten-free recipes for meals. If I find a good one, then I’ll make a double batch, freeze half, and pull it out on days when I don’t have the energy to cook at night. We also eat a lot of wild-caught fish along with chicken and pork. Thanks for your article.

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