One of the cornerstones of a healthy life is good nutrition. Many people with CF have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), meaning it’s difficult for your pancreas to make enzymes (chemicals that break down food). Your body needs those enzymes to absorb calories, vitamins, and minerals from food.
This makes it hard for you to digest your food or stay at a healthy weight. Once you know what you should be eating, you can help control how good you feel.
What CF Patients Lack in Their Diets
People with CF have trouble absorbing many of the important parts of their food: calories, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fats. Vitamins A, D, E, and K can only be absorbed if your body is getting enough fat, so they are in especially short supply.
You are also probably aware that CF patients also lose more salt through their sweat, causing dehydration. So grab a glass of water.
Cystic Fibrosis Diet: How to Combat Missing Nutrition
Your doctor or nutritionist will help you put together a healthy eating plan. You’ll know what foods you need to eat—and how much. Fortunately, breakthroughs in the way we understand and treat cystic fibrosis make it easier than ever to eat right.
Making sure children with cystic fibrosis get enough to eat is a challenge. Work with your team to find the right foods your child can enjoy. Teach your child good habits early, and it will be more natural for them to stay healthy as they get older.
Enzyme capsules are an important part of digestion for people with CF. Taking these capsules every time you eat allows you to digest whatever food you choose to eat. Being careful to always take your enzyme capsules—unless you’re having a snack that is pure sugar, like a popsicle—will make it easier to stay healthy.
You’ll need to eat nutritious, calorie-rich foods. Foods that are high in calories, protein, sugar, and fat will help you stay at a healthy weight and keep your energy up. You’ll probably need twice the average amount of calories and protein to break even. If you have trouble getting those calories at big meals, try spreading the energy around by snacking instead.
You should be snacking or having an energy drink throughout the day, at least every two hours. Be sure to have water and salty snacks on hand to combat dehydration.
Special energy drinks are available for people with cystic fibrosis. These drinks can’t replace real food, but they are a great way to add calories to your diet. By drinking one of these beverages before bedtime, your body can absorb energy while you sleep.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil is a fast way to add healthy fat to your diet. MCT oil can be used in cooking or added to beverages. Be sure to ask your doctor before adding MCT oil to your diet.
Even if you eat everything you should, you should still probably take supplements, including vitamins A, D, E and K. Vitamin D will help keep your bones strong and healthy. Your doctor or nutritionist will help you decide which supplements you’ll need to be at your best.
Keeping a healthy weight is a difficult part of managing your CF. Infections can steal your extra calories, so focus on gaining healthy weight when you’re feeling good and maintaining weight when feeling sick. If you’re having trouble staying at your healthy weight, talk to your doctor.
Want to know more about eating healthy with cystic fibrosis? Click here for some healthy recipes.
Cystic Fibrosis: Getting Enough Calories and Nutrients. WebMD. July 18, 2013. Accessed March 13, 2015.
Nutrition for adults. Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Accessed March 13, 2015.
Cystic Fibrosis and Dietary Needs According to Age. CFChef. Accessed March 13, 2015.
Cystic Fibrosis: Nutritional Considerations. NutritionMD. Accessed March 13, 2015.
Cystic Fibrosis & Nutrition. GIKids. Accessed March 13, 2015.
Maguiness K, Casey S, Fulton J, Luder E, McKenna A, Hazle L. Nutrition: Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement In People With Cystic Fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Accessed March 13, 2015.
CF Care Guidelines – Nutrition/GI. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. July 19, 2012. Accessed March 13, 2015.