Cystic Fibrosis: Dietary Needs

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Cystic Fibrosis: Dietary Needs




Guest:  Kristin Crady – Dietetic Services, MUSC

Host:  Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry, MUSC


Dr. Linda Austin:  I’m Dr. Linda Austin.  I’m interviewing Kristin Crady, who is a registered dietician here at the Medical University of South Carolina.  Kristin works, a lot, with our cystic fibrosis population here, and we’re going to focus on the dietary needs of patients with cystic fibrosis.  Kristin, I understand that diet is a particularly important issue for folks with CF.  Why is that?


Kristin Crady:  Because of the disease process, one of the major issues with CF patients is digestion.  There’s a thick mucus that collects in all of their major organs, and one of the main places that it collects is in the pancreas, which prevents pancreatic enzymes from being secreting and from aiding in the absorption and digestion of food. 


Dr. Linda Austin:  So, let’s imagine that I’m the mother of a child with cystic fibrosis.  What are some of the first things you might tell me about my child’s diet?


Kristin Crady:  The main that we really try to encourage, and that I really try to encourage in my patients, is making sure that they have adequate calories.  A lot of times, they need up to two times the amount of what a typical child without CF needs just to maintain a normal growth rate throughout their childhood and adolescence.


Dr. Linda Austin:  Because they’re not absorbing properly?


Kristin Crady:  Yes.


Dr. Linda Austin:  So, then, should it be just double what, let’s say, a child without CF consumes, or should there be more emphasis on certain foods?  Is anything off limits?  Are there any foods in particular that they must eat?


Kristin Crady:  I usually suggest to parents not to focus on increasing the amounts of foods that they eat, because that does become difficult; you feel like you’re eating all the time.  Instead, I try to encourage choosing calorie dense, calorie-rich, foods.  So, if they’re eating vegetables, for example, and they have broccoli, instead of eating plain broccoli; which would be good for the rest of the population without cystic fibrosis, I would encourage them to add butter, maybe put some cheese on top.  So, that broccoli has become very calorie dense, and calorie rich, just by adding those toppings.


Dr. Linda Austin:  So, it’s really almost the opposite of what most of us have to do then.


Kristin Crady:  It is the complete opposite of what I would advise any other person without CF to do as far as following a heart healthy diet that’s low in sodium, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol.  We really push the calories and calorie dense foods.


Dr. Linda Austin:  Now, as that person gets older, are they more likely to have heart disease, then, or are they just not absorbing all that fat; so it’s not really an issue?


Kristin Crady:  There’s not really a risk for cardiovascular disease in patients with cystic fibrosis that they’ve seen so far.  I know that research is lacking somewhat in that area.  But there’s not a higher incidence of cystic fibrosis patients having cardiovascular disease.  Likewise, there’s, typically, not an issue with obesity in patients with cystic fibrosis, as so many CF patients are under weight.


Dr. Linda Austin: And they’re not absorbing to begin with.


Kristin Crady:  Exactly.  And the pancreatic enzymes, they definitely help and do great things, but they’re not going to completely take the place of a functioning pancreas.


Dr. Linda Austin:  Kristin, thanks so much for talking with us.


Kristin Crady:  Thank you.


If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC Health Connection at:  (843) 792-1414.

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