Diet and Nutrition

Healthier Ways to Gain Weight for Those with Cystic Fibrosis

Healthier Ways to Gain Weight for Those with Cystic Fibrosis

Healthier Ways to Gain Weight for Those with Cystic Fibrosis

Keeping weight at a healthy level while living with cystic fibrosis can be a challenge. How can people with cystic fibrosis gain weight without adding junk food and empty calories to their diets?

Even with the addition of pancreatic enzymes and supplements containing enzymes to help increase food digestion, extra nutrition is necessary to maintain weight. Fighting off infections and chronic coughing also burns extra calories, not to mention nausea and a poor appetite in general. People with CF need to maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) to help their bodies fight infection and to keep their lungs strong.

There are several small daily changes to increase daily calories and we’ll cover them in this article. But first, have you considered getting tested for other conditions that are common in people with CF? Diseases like diabetes, celiac disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastroparesis, motility disorders, C. Diff., H. Pylori, constipation, and diarrhea have been linked to CF. These tests take a simple blood test or stool sample to diagnose.

Consider making an appointment with a gastrointestinal (GI) doctor who has experience with CF patients. They will have more knowledge of the GI system than your CF provider, who knows more about pulmonary problems, and will work as a team to treat your GI and CF conditions.


As mentioned before, supplements like digestive enzymes are helpful to CF patients. But when the pancreas isn’t functioning properly, they can require more than one enzyme. Probiotics, anti-nausea medication, anti-reflux medication, and high calorie tube feeds in combination with digestive enzymes complete the total package of supplementation for those with CF.

Brad, a CF patient, said for years he thought the gastrostomy tube (G tube) was his best option for increasing protein, fats and extra calories into his lacking diet. But he developed aspiration damage to his lungs because of extreme nausea and reflux.

Then his GI doctor switched him to a gastrostomy-jejunostomy tube (G-J tube) which sticks into both his stomach and small intestine. He said he mostly uses the J, or small intestine, part because it ended reflux and nausea by bypassing the stomach. J tubes in the past stuck out a lot more but Brad noted that there are newer low-profile tubes which you cannot see though his shirt. And by keeping the G part, he can inject medications into his stomach when he’s unable to take them orally.

Brad also noticed a difference when changing the brand of his pancreatic enzyme. He started to use Relizorb for tube feeds, which he calls a game-changer. His doctor also changed brands of other medications such as anti-nausea medication, anti-reflux medication, and probiotic strains.

Ask your doctor if they think that changing brand, dosage or strains could help to positively affect absorption of nutrients.

Read on to learn how to manage nutrient intake in a healthy way to gain weight.