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Diet for Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder which causes sticky thick mucus to accumulate in the lungs and the digestive tract. It is a chronic lung illness which affects children and young adults and can even lead to death. It is also referred to as mucoviscidosis or CF. In this condition the epithelial cells in the lungs and digestive tract get affected upsetting the water and salt balance in the body. Nutrients like vitamins and fats also cannot get absorbed properly due to cystic fibrosis.
Children who have cystic fibrosis need additional calories in order to stay healthy and hence a good cystic fibrosis diet plan is a must for these children. When children eat healthy and take their medications they can stay healthier in spite of this disease. This is the reason why most parents work out a cystic fibrosis diet therapy for their children in consultation with a qualified CF dietician. This kind of a program helps parents learn what exactly their kids should eat to stay healthy. The most important part of any cystic fibrosis diet nutrition plan is to ensure that children get a daily dose of important nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium and salt which their bodies specifically need.

Children with CF need to have regular balanced meals and snacks which include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins and dairy products. Organized meal plans are very important for children with cystic fibrosis to ensure that they get all the extra nutrients and calories that their bodies require. Parents can also experiment with a variety of delicious cystic fibrosis diet recipes in order to make meals and snacks more interesting for their kids. Simple recipes like milkshakes, extra butter in pastas and on potatoes, extra cheese on pizzas, burgers and sandwiches, varieties of cheesecakes, ice-creams and puddings and also nuts and crackers as healthy snacks. In cases where children have poor appetite or are not gaining adequate weight, cystic fibrosis diet supplements can be very helpful in improving energy. These supplements however should be taken in addition to food and should not replace meals completely. These days there are a number of dietary supplements available commercially but it is always advisable to take these supplements as per the doctor’s prescription.

Foods to Eat, Avoid Cystic Fibrosis

For children suffering from this condition there are specific cystic fibrosis foods which are very essential for their bodies. Foods like dark green vegetables, leafy greens, cereals, dried fruits and meats contain iron which is important to carry oxygen to various cells in the body. The list of cystic fibrosis foods to eat also includes eggs, liver, meats and seafood which are rich in zinc and zinc is important for the growth and development of the body. Calcium rich foods like milk, cheese and yogurt help in building stronger bones. Salt is also very important for children suffering from CF as they tend to lose more salt through perspiration. Salty snacks and more salt in normal food are good ways to replace salts which are lost through sweating. On the other hand for kids with cystic fibrosis foods to avoid include refined foods like pastas, white bread and sugar, bakery products like crackers, cookies, pastries and donuts, processed foods, red meats in particular and caffeinated drinks. For a child suffering from cystic fibrosis food allergy may be a common complaint. Therefore foods which increase the production of mucus or may cause allergies like sour cream, cheese, milk, gluten products, soy, corn, cabbage, bananas and food additives must be avoided as far as possible. It is advisable to eat foods which reduce mucus production such as onions, garlic, horseradish, parsley, mustard, pickles, celery and lemons. Fruits like pineapple and papaya contain good digestive enzymes and hence should be eaten more regularly. While cooking food it is also healthier to use vegetable or olive oils as compared to other saturated oils. In addition to eating healthy food it is also important to drink plenty of water through the day.

Nutrition for Cystic Fibrosis

In the case of cystic fibrosis nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining good health in spite of the disease. With a good balance of nutrition, calories, fats and supplements children and young adults can manage to stay healthy. While suffering from cystic fibrosis nutritional needs may vary from person to person and therefore it is best to work out a diet plan in consultation with a doctor or dietitian who can guide you regarding your child’s individual needs. A customized cystic fibrosis nutrition therapy plan will help parents identify what foods their children should or should not eat and in what quantities they should be consumed. It also helps chalk out a balanced meal plan to be followed regularly. Other than just food some children suffering from CF may also require to take vitamin A, D, E and K supplements. The supplements are required for fat to be absorbed in the body and also to help the patient heal and grow. Some children find it difficult to gain weight while suffering from CF and hence doctors prescribe additional supplements to help them gain adequate weight. However it is important to keep in mind that while suffering from cystic fibrosis nutritional supplements alone cannot help a person stay healthy. Good health can only be achieved with a combination of a healthy diet, nutritional supplements and adequate physical activity. For some children and young adults who suffer from cystic fibrosis nutritional levels are still difficult to reach in spite of eating healthy foods and taking supplements. Such patients may therefore require tube feeding by which the important nutrients will directly reach the stomach through a tube. Although this may be uncomfortable for the patient, it helps in boosting the calorie intake to the required levels. However in general adhering to the basic cystic fibrosis nutritional guidelines of eating healthy and exercising regularly can help CF patients to boost their mental and physical energy. It is important to consult your doctor regarding foods and exercises that are beneficial to your child’s condition before staring anything yourself.
Submitted on January 16, 2014