Cystic Fibrosis: What is it and how is it treated?
Did you know that about 30,000 kids and teenagers in the United States have cystic fibrosis? Cystic fibrosis is a disease that affects the lungs and digestive organs.
- How does Cystic Fibrosis occur?
- How does someone get cystic fibrosis?
- Is there a cure?
- Do kids with cystic fibrosis have to eat differently?
How does Cystic Fibrosis occur?
Cystic fibrosis occurs when certain cells in the lungs, called epithelial cells, create more mucus than they should. A normal lung has only a small amount of mucus, which is necessary for breathing and protecting the windpipe.
Someone with cystic fibrosis has too much mucus. This can make it very hard to breathe.
A large amount of mucus in the lungs makes for a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Too much bacteria leads to infections.
The lungs are not the only area with too much mucus. The digestive system is also impaired. In a normal digestive system, mucus covers the inside of the organs to help move the food along.
The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that help break down the food you eat. Without these enzymes, food cannot be broken down, and your body does not receive any nutrients.
In someone with cystic fibrosis, there is too much mucus lining the digestive organs. This blocks the enzymes from reaching the food, so the food is not digested.
Back to top
How does someone get cystic fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease. This means that it is passed down from your parents through your genes. Symptoms include:
- Frequent lung infections
- Frequent coughing fits
- Frequent coughing up of mucus
- Trouble gaining weight because nutrients in food are not absorbed
- Delayed growth
- Extremely salty sweat (doctors can diagnose cystic fibrosis by measuring the amount of salt in a patient's sweat
- Difficulty breathing
Back to top
Is there a cure?
There is no cure for cystic fibrosis. However, there are medicines and therapies that can help someone with cystic fibrosis. To help a kid with cystic fibrosis absorb nutrients and grow properly, doctors can prescribe tablets that contain the enzymes that are normally produced by the pancreas.
Finally, many kids with cystic fibrosis take vitamins daily instead of relying on their body to absorb the vitamins from food.
Back to top
Do kids with cystic fibrosis have to eat differently?
Yes, because kids with cystic fibrosis need to eat higher-calorie and higher-fat meals in order to absorb the same amount of calories and fat as normal kids.
Here are some tips that kids with cystic fibrosis should follow.
- Add extra butter to bread or pasta
- Drink whole milk instead of low-fat milk
- Add extra cheese to pizza
- Add whipped cream to dessert
- Eat chips with guacamole instead of salsa
- For breakfast, have eggs with extra cheese
- Add cheese and bacon to hamburgers
- For snacks: eat cheese, nuts, trail mix, or peanut butter
Back to top
high school student writer
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Cystic Fibrosis, KidsHealth.org.
Cystic Fibrosis: Diet and Nutrition, KidsHealth.org.
For More Information:
See our Support Group article.
See our Research Institute article.
Reviewed by: Adolescent Interest Group
Last reviewed: August 2013