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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can diet help manage cystic fibrosis?

    My daughter has recently been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Is there anything I can include more of or eliminate from her diet that will ease the symptoms of the condition?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Miraa Best

    Social Worker

    A high-calorie, high-fat diet is vital for normal growth and development in children. Your dietitians at your CF Clinic will help you map out the best diet for your daughter.

  • 1


    Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    Diet can definately help in improving life expectancy in those diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF). Organs which are specifically affected include the lungs and pancreas. Other organs include the gastrointestinal tract (GI), liver, reproductive organs, skeletal system and the kidney.

    Treatment often includes a multidisciplinary approach. The main concern is malnutrition in people with CF. Because CF is associated with chronic inflammation and infection, increased energy requirements are crucial as energy expenditure is increased. People with CF may also require pancreatic enzymes through pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT). These enzymes can help with the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fat with fat being the most important.

    It is best to seek the advice and guideance of an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) who specialises in CF to help your daughter achieve optimal nutritional status for this condition.

  • 1


    Samantha Ling

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Samantha is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD), consultant and food and nutrition enthusiast. Samantha works in a private practice on the Central Coast, NSW, Rostant … View Profile

    As Miraa and Chris have both pointed - talking to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian will be an essential component of the treatment for your little one. Depending on her age, dietary modifications will be different (eg, infant who is breastfeeding/formula fed versus a toddler).  

    As Chris has nicely explained, a high energy diet is ESSENTIAL for your little girl, particularly as she is still growing and developing. The reason why a high fat is encouraged is because fat contains the most energy (kilojoules) than all the other nutrients - therefore, not a lot needs to be consumed in order to ensure your daughter is getting enough energy (kilojoules) to ensure adequate growth.

    Depending on the level/seriousness of your daughter's condition, additional nutritional requirements may also be needed (eg. high salt intake). Due to the mutation in cells caused by Cystic Fibrosis, the cells in your daughter's body may not be able to retain salt (sodium) as effectively as you and I - you will notice that sometimes when you kiss your child's head her skin may taste slightly salty (this is because salt is being lost through your daughter's pores as the cells can't retain the salt).

    Generally, there are no foods that you will need to avoid. Due to her high energy requirements, restricting foods is not recommended. To date, there is no scientific evidence that supports eliminating certain foods in the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis. It is often a misconception that avoiding dairy products for example, will help prevent the mucous formation. This is incorrect - dairy products are full of calcium which your daughter will need in order to ensure her bones develop properly. On top of this dairy products provide energy (kilojoules) and fat in such a small volume. 

    Methods to increase your daughter's energy and fat intake include:

    1) Adding cream and butter to mash potato (instead of just milk), adding cream to soup etc
    2) Using full fat dairy varieties (eg. milk, yoghurt, cheese, ice-cream, custard)
    3) Adding cheese sauces to vegetables
    4) Adding milk powder to milkly drinks to give a little bit extra fat/energy to the drink
    5) Using butter, margarine or mashed avocado as spreads on sandwichs and rolls
    6) Using cooking oils, such as olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil etc in your cooking
    7) Adding full fat salad dressings or dips to salads and raw vegetables
    8) Adding additional flavourings to food (eg. milo to milk, chocolate sauce on ice cream, yoghurt with fruit)

    I highly recommend you talking to a specialist in the area. Hope the feedback given helps!

    Samantha Ling
    Rostant Nutrition
    (Find us on facebook at )  

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