CF Nutrition and The Importance of Salt

In Cystic Fibrosis, mucus can line the pancreas, intestines, and the bile ducts. Because mucus coats the pancreas, the pancreas cannot produce sufficient enzymes to digest fat and protein. The absorption of fat and protein that should be happening in the small intestine passes out of the body as steatorrhea or fatty diarrhea. To help counteract this aspect of CF, there are various brands of pancreatic enzymes that are taken before meals. This enables the body to break down and digest the fat and protein.

Even though the body can now digest the fat and protein, it is not all absorbed. Growth and gaining weight is often slow. People with CF often need much more nutrition, fat, and protein in their diet. This is also due to the fact that it takes more effort for them to breathe, cough, and help their lungs recover from frequent infections. Fat-soluble vitamins such as A,D,E, and K are not absorbed properly, so these are prescribed. Extra salt is also added to diets because they loose extra salt in their sweat.

Protein shakes are an easy way to add a little extra to the CF diet. There are many brands of supplemental protein/high-calorie drinks that are available in stores, or can be ordered online. There are also a number of websites that have recipes to make high protein/high calorie shakes at home. Click here for links on supplemental drinks and more info about CF nutrition.

Sometimes, even though the person is eating as much as they can, they still are not gaining weight or growing properly. In these cases, sometimes the doctor finds it necessary to put in a gastronomy tube or G-tube. This is a tube that is surgically inserted through the abdominal wall.  



About Salt

Did you know that sodium and chloride combined is salt? People with CF loose more salt when they sweat than other people. This can be dangerous during hot weather or exercising. They eat lots of salty foods and snacks, and drink sports drinks to replenish what is lost through sweat.

Salt helps maintain the body’s fluid balance, keeping the right amount of water in the right places. Salt also helps muscles contract. Not getting enough salt can interfere with growth; reduce appetite; and cause stomach pain, weakness, nausea and headache.

Table salt is the best way to add extra sodium chloride to a CF person’s diet. Canned or processed foods usually have added salt (and more calories!) 

I found a really easy way to add extra salt to Azer’s diet during the summer is to add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to his Gatorade.



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