Since cystic fibrosis increases the thickness of mucus in the digestive tract, many digestive functions are blocked in people with cystic fibrosis. The buildup of mucus can also harbor infections and cause other complications.
The digestive tract is responsible for extracting nutrients from food and delivering it across the body. Any problems with this process will manifest in a number of ways across the body systems and be detrimental to your health.
Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms in the Digestive System
The most immediate symptoms of cystic fibrosis are that it affects the lungs and makes breathing more difficult, but another system that is affected by cystic fibrosis is the digestive tract. It is important to remain aware of these effects because managing them is integral to staying healthy.
There are a many common digestive symptoms associated with cystic fibrosis. A great majority of these stem from the blockage of pancreatic enzymes from the digestive system.
- Frequent greasy stools – this is due to the lack of enzymes causing the body to be unable to break down the fats in the digestive system.
- Obstruction of the bowels – when food is not properly broken down, it can build up and get clogged in the bowels
- Fat in stools – This is the reason that stools can be greasy
- Constipation – Undigested food obstructing the bowels is a common cause of constipation in CF
- Stomach pain – All of the above symptoms are often accompanied with some type of stomach pain
- GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) – Better known as “acid reflux”
- Malnutrition – The lack of enzymes in the digestive tract make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients
- Trouble gaining weight – Not receiving the proper nutrition and being unable to absorb all the nutrients can inhibit growth
Managing Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms in the Digestive System
The symptoms of cystic fibrosis in the digestive system are all treatable with modern technology and medications. The most prevalent symptom of enzyme deficiency is treated by oral enzyme replacement. These are usually taken with meals and help break down the important nutrients in food so the body can absorb them. It is important that enzymes are taken consistently to avoid the food matter buildup that leads to intestinal blockage.
Since malnourishment is so prevalent with cystic fibrosis and absorption can be such a problem, supplementing the diet with vitamins can be very beneficial to your health. Fat soluble vitamins are the most important to supplement due to the absence of pancreatic enzymes to break down fats for absorption. Vitamins A, D, E, & K are all integral to proper health and nutrition.
The pancreas does more than produce enzymes. It is also responsible for insulin production and the symptoms of cystic fibrosis can cause damage that can affect your blood sugar. Cystic fibrosis-Related diabetes is common in the CF community and it is important to get tested each year after the age of 10. Early diagnosis and treatment of CFRD greatly increases quality of life and ensures your body remains healthy.
Learn more about Cystic Fibrosis with Us
The first step towards managing cystic fibrosis is understanding the symptoms.
The blockage of pancreatic enzymes from the digestive tract often causes matter to build up and block the intestines. Managing and preventing this is important to your health and well-being.
People with cystic fibrosis have to take special considerations into their diet due to the lack of pancreatic enzymes and the need to consume more calories. Fat soluble vitamins are also essential to health with cystic fibrosis.
Become part of the IV Solutions CF Family
IV Solutions is more than a pharmacy for cystic fibrosis medications, we’re your personalized CF treatment provider. We build each patient a custom program to help them achieve optimal therapy outcomes. We’re here to support you through individualized instruction, proactive refill reminders, on-going care coordination, 1 on 1 counseling, and clinical intervention.
IV Solutions is an active participant and promoter of the CF Community. Visit our facebook page for more resources on cystic fibrosis. If you’re interested in enrolling in an individualized CF care plan, visit our patient page and contact us today.
How Cystic Fibrosis Affects Digestion and the Pancreas. WebMD. Sept 9, 2014. Accessed Sept 9, 2015
Cystic Fibrosis and the Digestive System. University of Rochester Medical Center. July 14, 2013. Accessed Sept 9, 2015
Digestive system dysfunction in cystic fibrosis: Challenges for nutrition therapy. Science Direct. Oct 2014. Accessed Sept 9, 2015
Effect of CF: Pancreas/Gastrointestinal Tract: Diabetes Mellitus. Johns Hopkins CF Center. Nov 3, 2008. Accessed Sept 9, 2015
Cystic Fibrosis and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). IV Solutions. March 26, 2015. Accessed Sept 9, 2015