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Cystic Fibrosis Trust

Nutrition and cystic fibrosis

Eating well is vital for people with cystic fibrosis (CF). Good nutrition and a healthy body weight have been directly linked to having better lung function and a reduced frequency of chest infections.

Why is nutrition important if you have cystic fibrosis? 

Hand drawn image of a piece of pizza, a milkshake and a tin of tuna

Cystic fibrosis causes a build-up of mucus that blocks the ducts in the pancreas and means digestives juices containing enzymes do not reach the stomach and therefore food is not broken down properly. This pancreatic insufficiency affects about 90% of people with CF to varying degrees, and is managed with digestive enzyme replacements.

People with cystic fibrosis should have a balanced diet although many will require more energy (calories), to maintain a healthy body weight. For some people with CF it can be very difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Having CF can increase the body’s energy needs by 150-200% or even higher if lung function drops or if the body is fighting an infection. Feeding the body with these extra calories can be really challenging if an individual is feeling poorly, tired or lacking in appetite.

Nutritional needs will vary according to age, weight, height, symptoms, lung function and activity level. Specialist cystic fibrosis dietitians are part of every hospital CF team and they can advise on an individual’s requirements.

More information 

For general information about a range of issues relating to nutrition and CF, we have a suite of leaflets that have been written by CF dietitians and provide detail on topics including:

  • Achieving a healthy weight
  • Calcium and bone health
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating well for children with CF
  • Exercise nutrition
  • Food refusal in children with CF
  • Gastrointestinal issues in CF
  • Healthy eating
  • Iron in the diet
  • Leaving home and eating well
  • Nutrition and pregnancy
  • Pancreatic enzyme supplement and CF
  • Pancreatic sufficiency and insufficiency in babies with CF
  • Post-lung transplant nutrition for people with CF
  • Salt in the CF diet
  • Staying hydrated
  • Teaching children to swallow their enzymes
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Weaning in babies with CF

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