Healthy Living

Fat-Soluble Vitamins Could Help Fight Cystic Fibrosis

Fat-Soluble Vitamins Could Help Fight Cystic Fibrosis

Key Takeaways

  • Cystic fibrosis patients often find themselves chronically infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which causes incredibly debilitating lung disease.
  • Head researcher professor Miguel Valvano hypothesized that fat-soluble vitamins could boost the effectiveness of antibiotics fighting multi-resistant bacteria. 
  • Some studies have shown that merely increasing your own fat-soluble vitamin levels can help your lung function and antibiotic effectiveness.

Doctors and medical professionals in recent years have prescribed numerous antibiotics to cystic fibrosis patients in order to counteract Burkholderia cenocepacia, bacteria that are known to cause lung infections in those with cystic fibrosis.

It has become apparent in recent years that these antibiotics have not been as effective as was initially hoped. Most patients still report lung infections and other ailments, even after taking the antibiotics for weeks at a time. This has led many researchers to wonder why these antibiotics have been so ineffective.

Problems with Antibiotics

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast have attempted to figure out why antibiotics have been so ineffective against cystic fibrosis. Their studies have shown that the bacteria causing infections in cystic fibrosis patients, Burkholderia cenocepacia, are highly resistant to almost any form of antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance is usually seen in bacteria that ignores the actions of antibiotic agents, but can also be seen when bacteria captures the antibiotic agents before they get to the target cells. Cystic fibrosis patients often find themselves chronically infected with these resistant bacteria, which causes incredibly debilitating lung disease. After finding out how ineffective antibiotics were against these bacteria, medical researchers started looking for solutions to help those falling victim to antibiotic resistant bacteria. 

Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A Possible Solution?

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast recently discovered a huge breakthrough that could do wonders in fighting lung disease and other multi-resistant bacteria. Head researcher professor Miguel Valvano hypothesized that fat-soluble vitamins could boost the effectiveness of antibiotics fighting multi-resistant bacteria. The preliminary results are promising, as fat-soluble vitamins have been shown to at least somewhat boost the effects of antibiotics.

How Do Fat-Soluble Vitamins Work?

One of the major problems in using antibiotics is the presence of Lipocalins in the body. Lipocalins are proteins that capture and bind antibiotic agents before they get to the areas of an infection. Some bacteria may cause the body to release more Lipocalins, which greatly reduces the effectiveness of any antibiotic.

Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins that dissolve in fat and are stored in body tissue. Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K are the currently known fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins will essentially soak up any Lipocalins that would capture antibiotic agents. This creates a clearer path for the antibiotics to make it to the infected areas.

The next step, according to Valvano, is to formulate antibiotics with these vitamins in mind. It may be possible to design antibiotics that can produce more of these essential vitamins, and it also may be possible for antibiotics to be infused with certain vitamins to increase their effectiveness. This finding could potentially be life-changing for patients who suffer from cystic fibrosis and other lung diseases.

While this finding may show a very promising future, there are thousands of patients that are suffering from cystic fibrosis right now. The good news is that you don't need a special fancy pill to improve your antibiotic's effectiveness. In fact, some studies have shown that merely increasing your own fat-soluble vitamin levels can help your lung function and antibiotic effectiveness.

Sources of Fat-Soluble Vitamins

While there may not be any antibiotics on the market that incorporate fat-soluble vitamins, it is very possible for patients to regulate their vitamin levels themselves. It is incredibly important to make sure that a patient's vitamin levels are adequately monitored. Clinical nutritionists have found evidence linking certain fat-soluble vitamin levels to better lung function, especially in those suffering from cystic fibrosis. Because of the importance of these vitamins in the functioning of your lungs, you and your doctor should have a meaningful discussion on how to ensure that your vitamin levels are adequately monitored and raised. Below are a few ways in which you can increase these vitamin levels yourself.

Foods Containing Fat-Soluble Vitamins

The easiest way to increase your vitamin levels is to make some simple changes to your diet. Certain foods are chock full of essential nutrients that can increase your vitamin levels a great deal. We'll go ahead and break down sources of each of the four important fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin K).

  • Vitamin A - Vitamin A levels are highest in different types of fish oils and animal livers. Some of the foods highest in Vitamin A include baked sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, and even pumpkin pie. Vitamin A is also found in certain vegetables like broccoli or different types of peppers.
  • Vitamin E - Vitamin E levels are highest in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. Some of the foods highest in Vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, sunflower oil, and peanut butter. The key to getting adequate levels of Vitamin E is to frequently use different types of vegetable oils like corn oil or canola oil.
  • Vitamin D - Vitamin D is harder to come by in most foods. The best source of Vitamin D is cod liver oil, but that may be difficult to find depending on where you are located. The skin of most fatty fishes also contains a healthy amount of Vitamin D. Fatty fishes include salmon, swordfish, and tuna.
  • Vitamin K - Vitamin K is primarily found in different types of fruits and vegetables. Some of the highest levels of Vitamin K can be found in natto (fermented soybeans), collard greens, turnip greens, kale, and spinach.

Other Vitamin Sources

While dietary changes are a great way to balance your vitamin levels, there are other sources of vitamins that you and your doctor may want to consider:

  • Supplements - Almost any vitamin can be found in supplement form. These supplements are often found in pill form. Consult your doctor to determine the best dosage of these supplements for you. Some supplements may include multiple types of vitamins, so you won't have to worry about balancing 3 or 4 different pills a day.
  • Sunlight - The average person gets most of their Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Therefore, a little more time in the sun can do wonders for those struggling with Vitamin D levels. However, it is important not to overdo it. Spending too much time in direct sunlight can lead to sunburn or even skin cancer.

Final Thoughts

This newfound breakthrough in antibiotic resistance is great news for those suffering from cystic fibrosis. The utilization of fat-soluble vitamins could lead to more effective antibiotics that could reduce the harmfulness of certain lung infections and diseases. Researchers still have to figure out how to incorporate the vitamins into the antibiotics themselves, but just the prospect of improving antibiotic effectiveness is huge.

While the technology for utilizing fat-soluble vitamins is still a ways off, those suffering from cystic fibrosis can possibly improve their lung function through increased levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin K. These vitamins can often be found in different types of fruits, vegetables, fishes, and oils. Some of these vitamins can also be found in dietary supplements. So, if you are suffering from lung problems related to cystic fibrosis, you may want to consider upping your fat-soluble vitamin levels.