Nutritional Support for Cystic Fibrosis

Nutritional support to maintain overall health, increase weight, and improve growth is an important part of the cystic fibrosis care plan at NYU Langone. Studies have shown that children with normal weight have fewer coughing episodes and better lung function.

Most people with cystic fibrosis have pancreatic insufficiency, in which the pancreas does not produce enough of the enzymes lipase, amylase, and protease, which help the body to digest dietary fats and proteins. In particular, people with pancreatic insufficiency have difficulty absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. This can lead to difficulty gaining weight, poor growth, and, rarely, malnutrition.

Cystic fibrosis also interferes with the proper function of insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps the body metabolize sugar. As a result, people with cystic fibrosis have an increased risk of becoming glucose intolerant and developing diabetes. Doctors at NYU Langone recommend annual glucose tolerance testing for all people with cystic fibrosis older than age 10. Our endocrinologists can work with you or your child to suggest dietary changes and to prescribe medications as needed to help control this complication. 

NYU Langone’s registered dietitians can help you to develop a specialized nutritional plan that increases your child’s caloric intake. In addition, they may recommend taking pancreatic enzyme tablets to improve the absorption of nutrients, fat-soluble vitamin supplements, and salt tablets, which replace salt that may be lost during hot weather or illness.

More Cystic Fibrosis Resources