Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Diet & Nutrition: Tips for Optimal Health and Well-being

July 7th, 2023 | 7:32 am


Cystic Fibrosis, or CF, is a genetic condition which affects the lungs and digestive tract wherein sticky mucus builds up, making it difficult for patients with Cystic Fibrosis to breathe or digest food properly. Due to this, individuals with Cystic Fibrosis need to maintain a high-calorie, high-protein diet through protein-dense foods throughout the day in order to maintain a normal weight. A good diet and nutrition habits help individuals with Cystic Fibrosis to support optimal lung function and improve overall quality of life. Below, some tips for optimising diet and nutrition in CF have been provided.

Understanding the Nutritional Needs of Individuals with Cystic Fibrosis (CF)

CF is an inherited disease in which the body produces sticky mucus that clogs the lung, causing breathing difficulties, and also gets stuck to the pancreas leading to difficulty in breaking down food and digesting it. Cystic Fibrosis symptoms in children may be discovered early on, which may be in the form of weight loss or not gaining any weight. As part of Cystic Fibrosis treatment, children may need to take a special diet that is higher in protein and calories to make up for the nutrient requirements.

Designing a Balanced CF Diet

To make up forthe calorie requirements for children and individuals with Cystic Fibrosis, foods high in calories, including salty and fatty foods, are recommended. Regular intake of fruits and vegetables is also essential for proper bowel movement. Vitamin supplements for vitamins A, D, E and K, along with calcium supplements, may also be required, which can be prescribed by a doctor.

Fluid intake also has to be taken care of to account for calories lost from sweating. 2 to 4 litres of water is recommended. Adding electrolyte solutions on hotter days may also be beneficial. It is also essential to keep a variety of nutritious food around to eat whenever hungry. Eating small meals or eating snacks may be a good way to manage hunger throughout the day and incorporate various nutrients and supplements.

Caloric Intake and Weight Management

The best way to make a diet plan for patients with Cystic Fibrosis is to collaborate with a registered medical dietician who can understand the needs and requirements of such patients. Patients suffering from Cystic Fibrosis may need to maintain a healthy body weight as they may often tend to be underweight due to their calorie requirements. Not everyone may need the same amount of calories due to differences in age and activities. Dietary adjustments according to the needs of the patients can be made appropriately by a professional dietician. They may recommend strategies for promoting weight gain or maintaining a healthy weight.

Some common suggestions for gaining weight for patients with Cystic Fibrosis may include:

  • Drinking milk
  • Adding nuts and seeds to the diet
  • Adding fatty foods such as cheese and meat to the diet
  • Drinking health drinks
  • Adding protein powder to shakes, smoothies, and other drinks.

Ensuring Sufficient Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT)

Patients with Cystic Fibrosis often have pancreatic insufficiency, which occurs when the mucus prevents enzymes from being pumped into the intestines. Without these enzymes, foods cannot be broken down and synthesised. This leads to the inability of the body to absorb the food and, in turn, causes malnutrition.

To tackle this problem, doctors may recommend pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) to help patients with Cystic Fibrosis to gather enough enzymes for synthesising their food and getting energy and nutrients from their diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements may also be prescribed, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, along with supplements for iron and zinc.

Addressing Nutritional Challenges in CF

Patients suffering from Cystic Fibrosis may often be hungry. Eating whenever hungry may be good, especially eating food rich in nutritional value. Malabsorption due to Cystic Fibrosis can be tackled by taking enzyme supplements. CF may also prevent insulin production in normal amounts due to obstruction in the pancreas by the mucus. This condition is known as Cystic Fibrosis-related Diabetes (CFRD).

The goal for managing CFRD is to keep blood sugar (glucose) levels normal or near-normal. This can be done by maintaining normal nutrition and gaining muscle mass. Maintaining normal glucose levels may also lower the risk of health problems caused by diabetes.

CFRD can be well managed with the following:

  • Insulin
  • Monitoring blood sugar levels
  • Taking a high-calorie diet for Cystic Fibrosis
  • Exercising

Special Considerations for CF-related Liver Disease

Cystic Fibrosis related Liver Disease (CFLD) is characterised by obstruction, inflammation and liver cirrhosis. CFLD may be largely asymptomatic but have a significant impact on liver health. Cystic Fibrosis affecting the liver may cause hindrance in the absorption of proteins and vitamins. As such, these nutrients have to be replaced by increasing carbohydrate intake by eating fruits & vegetables and lean protein foods, including legumes, poultry, and fish. Such dietary requirements can be tweaked with help from professional dieticians having knowledge of Cystic Fibrosis management.

Incorporating Pulmonary Supportive Nutrients

Patients with Cystic Fibrosis are vulnerable to oxidants due to the presence of mucus, causing damage to the lungs and inflammation in the airways. Foods rich in antioxidants, vegetables, fruits, and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are recommended for such patients.

Doctors may also recommend Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which regulate the immune response and may help in assisting the cells to resolve inflammation of the air pathway.


Cystic Fibrosis is a lifelong continuing disease which can be handled with the help of a well-balanced diet rich in nutritional value and taking additional supplements as necessary. Cystic Fibrosis can potentially reduce the ability of the body to absorb nutrients from foods and cause problems in the lungs and the liver, leading to numerous problems in children and adults. Precisely diagnosing Cystic Fibrosis causes and managing it with help from medical professionals is essential for improving quality of life and dealing with the lifelong effects of Cystic Fibrosis.

At Giggles Hospitals, we host the top doctors for Cystic Fibrosis treatment to provide comprehensive medical diagnosis, effective treatment and management of Cystic Fibrosis, especially for children. We are committed to providing exceptional medical services to children of all ages.

Visit Giggles today to get treated by the best doctor for Cystic Fibrosis.