Children with cystic fibrosis (CF) often have trouble consuming enough calories to grow or gain weight. Infections, breathing problems, and malabsorption can all contribute to increased calorie needs. The diet for children with CF should be high in calories. If your child consumes the extra calories he/she needs then he/she should grow and develop normally. Children should eat three meals and two to three snacks a day to help meet their calorie needs. It can help to add extra fat to meals and snacks to meet your child's calorie needs. Pancreatic enzymes will usually be needed to help digest this diet.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are known as fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamins are important for proper growth and development. Many children with CF do not get enough of these vitamins from the foods they eat, because they have difficulty digesting and absorbing fat. When this happens, your child may need to take extra vitamins. Your child's physician can recommend the type and amount of vitamins you should give to your child. There are vitamins specifically made for children with CF. Consult your child's physician for more information.
Children with CF need extra salt in their diets because they lose more salt in their sweat than other children. Add extra salt by using the salt shaker at meals and including salty foods and snacks (i.e., chips, pretzels, fast foods, french fries, pickles, nuts, and luncheon meats). Extra salt intake is important in the hot weather when children are playing outside and sweating.
Sometimes, children with CF do not grow or gain weight despite a high-calorie diet. This can occur if your child's appetite is poor, he/she has frequent infections, or he/she has malabsorption. If your child is unable to eat enough food to promote appropriate growth and development, then supplemental oral or tube feedings may be needed, as directed by your child's physician. This involves placing a small tube through the nose which ends in the stomach. This is referred to as a nasogastric tube, or NG tube. A high-calorie formula or supplement can be given to your child though this tube to help promote appropriate growth and development. Some patients with CF require long-term calorie supplementation by placement of a feeding tube (gastrostomy or "G-tube") through the stomach wall, or by giving intravenous fat solutions (intralipids). Consult your child's physician for more information.