Intestinal blockage occurs in 10-15% of patients with cystic fibrosis. However, incidence of intestinal obstruction has decreased throughout the years due to advances in the administration of treatment enzymes. With improved treatment plans, the key precursors of DIOS are poor compliance with enzyme treatments, changes in diet, and dehydration.
What is Intestinal Blockage
Distal Intestinal Obstruction Syndrome (DIOS) involves the blockage of the intestinal tract by thickened stool. The principal difference between average constipation and DIOS is that, in DIOS, the back-up of stool is located much higher in the intestinal tract than in constipation.
The symptoms of DIOS can range from abdominal cramping to vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can even be so severe as to mimic those of appendicitis.
What it looks like for someone with CF
The root of digestive problems in people with cystic fibrosis is in mucus clogging the pancreas. This results in essential digestive enzymes being unable to reach the intestines to aid in digestion.
Fats and proteins are the foods principally associated with malabsorption in cystic fibrosis. This makes taking enzymes and supplementing fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E, & K) extremely important.
Treatment of Intestinal Blockage
The need for surgery to alleviate intestinal obstruction is very rare. Usually, intestinal blockage is treated by the ingestion of a special liquid called “golytely.” It is taken over the course of a 4-8 hour period and helps to break up the stool so it can move through the bowels.
Less commonly, intestinal blockage can be treated by special types of enemas. Upon the treatment of the first intestinal blockage, the doctor or nurse will prescribe certain protocols to help in the event of experiencing another blockage. This may include a medicine called “PEG 3350” that can be taken daily with fluids to prevent further intestinal blockage.
Different ways to Prevent Blockage
There are many things that can be done to avoid intestinal blockage. If you have experienced intestinal blockage before, it is very likely that you will know how the beginning of an intestinal blockage feels. This would put you in a more proactive position to react to the symptoms and relieve the problem before it becomes severe again. Staying hydrated, keeping salt levels high, and making sure you adhere to your enzyme plan are all important ways to avoid intestinal blockage.
In cystic fibrosis, mucus blocks the pancreatic ducts. This makes it necessary to supplement the diet with the enzymes that are unavailable due to this blockage. Pancreatic enzymes are integral to cystic fibrosis digestive health and missing doses can result in intestinal blockage or other symptoms.
Learn more about CF with us
The first step towards managing cystic fibrosis is understanding the symptoms. Read more about what the symptoms are, how to manage them, and how to prevent further complications.
It is thought that supplementing amylase, protease, and lipase can aid in the symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) due to their aid in digesting carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. This, subsequently, helps with some of the underlying causes of intestinal blockage.
People with cystic fibrosis have to take special considerations into their diet due to the lack of pancreatic enzymes and the need to consume more calories. Read our 10 Diet Tips for CF.
Cystic fibrosis is associated with a few common complications and chronic ailments. These can affect the digestive system, the sinuses, or even blood sugar. Learn more about common complications and what can be done to alleviate the struggles associated with them.
Distal intestinal obstruction syndrome. Radiopaedia. Oct 2, 2009. Accessed Sept 9, 2015
About CF. Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Nov 21, 2010. Accessed Sept 9, 2015
How Cystic Fibrosis Affects Digestion and the Pancreas. WebMD. Sept 9, 2014. Accessed Sept 9, 2015
Distal Intestinal Obstruction Syndrome (DIOS). Toronto Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre. Aug 28, 2015. Accessed Sept 9, 2015
Enzyme Replacement Therapy for Cystic Fibrosis. WebMD. Sept 9, 2014. Accessed Sept 9, 2015
Cystic Fibrosis and Heartburn – Explained. Digestive Health Institute. Oct 24, 2012. Accessed Sept 9, 2015