Diet for cystic fibrosis is really important for helping to manage the condition.
Cystic fibrosis often affects a person’s digestive system, specifically the function of the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for releasing enzymes into the gut to help break food down, and also to regulate blood sugar levels.
In a person with cystic fibrosis, the pancreas becomes blocked with excess mucus and can become scarred, resulting in these two key functions of the organ being affected. This can lead to food not being broken down properly and some foods being particularly difficult to digest, such as fats.
Some people with cystic fibrosis may also develop diabetes, because the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to manage blood sugar correctly. Read more about diabetes caused by cystic fibrosis.
Some children and adults with cystic fibrosis find that they are underweight, which may be due to the condition causing them to burn more energy than they take in from food. Lung infections and persistent coughing means more calories are needed to give the body energy to fight the infection and physically cough. Digestive issues can also mean that calories and nutrients are not absorbed correctly. Cystic fibrosis symptoms may affect a person’s appetite, which can lead to not eating enough.
A cystic fibrosis diet therefore needs to ensure a healthy balance of nutrients but also that ample calories are consumed, which may mean increasing the amount of fat eaten.
Research shows that people with cystic fibrosis who eat a well-balanced diet and who are a healthy weight, actually have better lung function than those who are underweight, so diet for cystic fibrosis is an important factor in managing and treating the condition.
Read more about nutrition and diet for cystic fibrosis.
Exercise for cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis exercise is really important because physical activity helps improve lung function by moving mucus from the lungs. Exercise also helps improve mood, reduce anxiety, build strength in the muscles, make bones stronger and keep joints flexible.
It is important for parents of a child with cystic fibrosis to instil physical activity from a young age and make it a priority during childhood. Exercise for those living with cystic fibrosis should involve cardiovascular exercise that gets the heart pumping, such as team sports, running, swimming and so on. Exercise helps maintain bone strength, which is important for people with the condition because they may be at risk of osteoporosis and related issues. Cystic fibrosis exercise should also include stretches that help the joints stay flexible- yoga and Pilates are excellent choices.
A physiotherapist may be able to put together a programme of exercise for cystic fibrosis patients.
Read more about being active when you have cystic fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis and employment
Living with a cystic fibrosis diagnosis does not mean that a person is unable to work – many people with the condition do work and have careers. Cystic fibrosis symptoms may cause some issues at work such as needing time off for medical appointments, but employers are legally obliged to permit these and ensure reasonable adjustments are made to allow a person with the condition to carry out their job safely and comfortably. With health as their main priority, a person living with cystic fibrosis may be unable to do certain jobs - for example, keeping their lungs healthy is really important so they may need to avoid careers where chemicals, dusts, smoke or other potentially lung-damaging inhalants are used.
Read more information on cystic fibrosis and work here.