Cystic Fibrosis: Getting Enough Calories and Nutrients

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Topic Overview

People with cystic fibrosis who take digestive enzymes can eat many of the same foods as anyone else. But people with cystic fibrosis will generally need to eat more calories each day, on average, than people who do not have the disease. Eating high-calorie, nutritious foods is important for increasing or maintaining weight and providing energy. Eating well can also strengthen the immune system and the muscles used for breathing.

Consider trying any of the following:

  • Special nutritional drinks made for people who have chronic diseases or nutritional deficiencies. These are available at grocery stores and pharmacies. Most of these drinks are high in calories, protein, and fat, although they are also available in low-fat, high-calorie forms. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian about these drinks before you use them.
  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil. MCT oil gives you additional fat and calories and is easy to digest without the help of enzymes. Ask your doctor if MCT oil is right for you.
  • A high-fat diet. The body uses less oxygen to convert fat into energy, which makes digesting fat easier on your lungs than digesting proteins or carbohydrates. Fat also provides more calories than other foods do. People who have cystic fibrosis need to eat more fat than people who do not have the disease.
  • Vitamin supplements. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, which means they can only be absorbed if you are eating and digesting enough fat. Because most people who have cystic fibrosis lack the enzymes that are needed to digest and absorb fat, they may not get enough of these vitamins unless they take supplements.

Work with a dietitian and your doctor to make a plan for the kinds of foods and vitamins you need.

It is important for people who have cystic fibrosis to keep track of their weight at home. Losing weight can be a sign that they are not getting all the nutrients they need.

If a person who has cystic fibrosis is not able to get all the vitamins and nutrients his or her body needs to stay healthy, a feeding tube may be needed.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics

Specialist Medical Reviewer R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology

Current as ofMay 4, 2017