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Diet for Cystic Fibrosis Print

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infection, extensive lung damage, and eventually, respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

Symptoms of CF
Although there is no known cure, a correct diet can assist patients to fight off further infections and other disorders associated with it.

Cystic fibrosis makes huge energy demands on the body. Affected children have large appetites as their bodies absorb nutrients poorly. Vomiting and reduced lung efficiency result in a greater need for nutrients supplied by a proper diet. Mucus build up in the pancreas prevent enzymes from reaching the intestines where they are required for food digestion. Food, especially proteins and fat, is not properly digested. This results in diarrhoea and deficiencies in essential vitamins. 85% of patients with cystic fibrosis suffer from pancreatic insufficiency. They need pancreatic enzymes in capsule form to aid digestion.   

High-fibre low-fat diets are normally promoted as healthy but as unsuitable for cystic fibrosis sufferers. They will experience satiation before their increased nutritional needs are fulfilled. Adults can therefore suffer from weight loss while children can experience poor growth.

Energy and protein are the most important considerations for patients. Individual needs may differ, but the Cystic Fibrosis Trust (UK) recommends 20-50% greater calories intake than the national recommendation for age and gender and twice as much protein.

Fat and protein can be obtained from dairy produce, oils, meat, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines), sausages, ice cream, pastry, cream, nuts, chocolate and chips. Butter should be added to vegetables to boost calorie count and foods fried for extra fat content. Extra fish oil can help reduce inflammation related to the disease.    

Sugary foods and drinks are easily absorbed and provide quick energy. They should be included if diabetes is not a complication.

Cystic fibrosis affects the sweat and parotid glands. They excrete copious amounts of salt through perspiration, tears and saliva, especially during hot weather and exercise. Salt is therefore essential, but not in excessive amounts.


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