What Does a Healthy Diet Really Do for Cystic Fibrosis Patients?

I hate to admit it, but when my Mom nagged me to eat lots of fruits and veggies, she was right. For most people, balanced nutrition helps keep our bodies healthy. But for people with cystic fibrosis (CF), there is even a bigger reason to mind what they eat.

According to a recent article published in Cystic Fibrosis News Today, researchers at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center found that good nutrition can actually slow the progress of this progressive lung disease.

The study makes sense. Fighting off this insidious condition takes a lot of energy, and that energy comes from whole nutrition and supplements. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for people with CF to get enough calories. Complications due to the lungs’ inability to function properly sets off a chain reaction of problems throughout the careful balance of the body.

For example, the people living with CF may be unable to absorb nutrients and fats due to insufficient pancreatic enzymes. Malnutrition is compounded with stress and lack of compliance to standard CF treatments.

The study recommended soluble vitamin supplements, particularly A, D,E and K as well as iron, sodium, zinc, and calcium, since CF impacts the intestine’s ability to absorb these key nutrients.

Earlier this year, Cystic Fibrosis News Today reported that researchers in Sweden published their findings in a study that showed high levels of vitamin D supplements may improve lung function in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients.

Unfortunately, vitamin D isn’t effectively rendered from foods, and must be either gained by spending time in the sun or taking supplements. According to the Vitamin D Council (yes, that’s a real organization), “there are small amounts of vitamin D in a few foods, which makes it nearly impossible to get what you need from food. However, these foods include fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolk, fortified milk and orange juice, fortified cereals and infant formula.”

And although Vitamin D plays a role in reducing inflammation, neuromuscular and immune functions and many cellular reactions, it can also be hazardous when amounts in the blood become too high, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH explains that vitamin D toxicity is caused by too much supplement usage and almost never from excessive sun exposure. Vitamin D “overdose” symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Constipation
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Kidney damage

For people with CF, maintaining healthy amounts of Vitamin D and other nutrients is critical. But any dietary changes and supplements should always be discussed with your doctor and nutritionist to ensure safety.

To find out more about CF, check out our partners CysticLife and Strawfie Challenge.

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