Nutritional Support for Cystic Fibrosis in Children

Good nutrition is crucial for children who have cystic fibrosis, as it helps maintain overall health, increase weight, and improve growth. Nutritional support is an important part of the cystic fibrosis care plan at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone. Studies have shown that children with cystic fibrosis who maintain a normal weight have fewer coughing episodes and better lung function.

Most children with cystic fibrosis have pancreatic insufficiency, which is when the pancreas does not produce enough of the enzymes lipase, amylase, and protease. These enzymes help the body to digest dietary fats and proteins. Children with pancreatic insufficiency have particular 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, children 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 children with cystic fibrosis older than age 10. Our endocrinologists can work with you and your child to suggest dietary changes and, if needed, to prescribe medications to help control this complication.

NYU Langone’s registered dietitians can develop a nutritional plan specially designed to increase 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.

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