How Can I Maintain My Weight with Cystic Fibrosis?

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Of the many harmful effects of cystic fibrosis, one of the most difficult to manage is weight loss. Patients with this condition often experience a sudden, drastic drop in weight that can quickly develop into malnutrition and lead to other complications besides. Unfortunately, the symptoms of cystic fibrosis seem almost designed to cause weight loss; between the additional energy expenditure that comes with the disease and the difficulties digesting and absorbing nutrients, both gaining and keeping energy reserves can require a lot of planning and work. However, it is of the utmost importance that a person with cystic fibrosis work to maintain a healthy body weight, even if it proves challenging. To learn more about how you can maintain your weight with cystic fibrosis, keep reading as the medical nutrition support specialists at ENU explain.

Maintaining Your Weight with Cystic Fibrosis

Staying at a healthy weight requires careful observation of your caloric intake, especially if you have a condition like cystic fibrosis, which affects how the body processes calories and nutrients. To maintain a healthy body weight, a person – whether they have cystic fibrosis or not – must consume at least as many calories as their body needs to function on a daily basis. However, this need is less straightforward for those with cystic fibrosis because the digestive process in these individuals can be unpredictable.

When someone with CF eats food, that food is partially broken down in the stomach; then, it moves into the intestines, where the nutrients it contains are supposed to be absorbed for use by the body’s systems. In a healthy person, the pancreas supplies certain enzymes once the food enters the intestines, enzymes that further break the food down into bits that are small enough for the intestines to absorb them; however, in those with cystic fibrosis, thick mucus creates blockages in the pancreas that prevent the release of these enzymes, which in turn prevents food from being fully digested and absorbed.

In effect, this issue means that much of what someone with CF eats goes unused by the body and instead is simply passed in the stool, especially fats and some proteins. The lack of absorption causes CF patients to miss out on lots of calories, too; in other words, just because someone with cystic fibrosis eats a certain number of calories doesn’t mean that all those calories are actually staying in the body.

This lack of absorption essentially means that cystic fibrosis patients must take in many more calories than a healthy person just to stay at the same weight. While the general guideline for healthy people is 2,000 calories a day, it is generally recommended that those with CF follow the guidelines below when determining how many calories to eat to maintain their weight:

  • Men with cystic fibrosis should eat at least 3,000 calories a day to stay at their current weight.
  • Women with CF should eat at least 2,500 calories each day to maintain their body weight.

Gaining Weight with Cystic Fibrosis

Generally speaking, a healthy individual must take in about 500 extra calories each day to gain weight – “extra” meaning above and beyond what their body requires to function. Over the course of a week, the 3,500 calories that were added to that person’s diet will form one pound of body fat, which is the most a person should look to gain over that period of time.

However, those with cystic fibrosis tend to have energy needs that are about 50% greater than those of healthy people; this increase can be as much as double what others require. For weight gain, this means that a person with cystic fibrosis has to take in about 750 calories per day to gain weight, or even more in some cases. Below, you’ll find some tips on how to increase your caloric intake when you have cystic fibrosis, whether you want to maintain your current weight or build additional body mass.

  • Keep snacks on hand. Having things like protein bars, meal replacement shakes, trail mix, or other convenient foods nearby can help you keep a consistent flow of calories throughout the day.
  • Plan your meals for the day ahead of time. Think about where you’ll be throughout the day and what opportunities you might have to cook or find prepared meals.
  • Take your enzymes every time you eat. Remember that your pancreatic enzyme supplements are what allow you to digest and use the foods you eat; without them, you won’t be able to absorb many of the calories you take in when you eat.
  • Focus on foods that are high in fats and protein. Even when taking enzymes, you probably won’t be able to absorb all the fat and protein you take in. Prioritizing foods that are high in fats and protein will help ensure that you still get the nutrients you need, even if a portion of it goes unused.

If you find that you are losing weight despite your best efforts, talk to your doctor or dietician for more suggestions. Unwanted weight loss with cystic fibrosis can easily lead to malnutrition; avoid this serious complication by staying at a healthy weight.

Boost Your Calorie and Nutrient Intake with a Meal Replacement Shake from ENU

Considering the challenges of maintaining a healthy weight when you have cystic fibrosis, anything that can easily increase your caloric intake and provide balanced nutrition can be helpful. ENU weight gain shakes contain a well-rounded blend of easily digestible fats, protein, carbs, vitamins, and minerals, all while offering more than 300 calories in a convenient, portable package. To learn more about ENU products and how they can help you or a loved one maintain their weight with cystic fibrosis, visit us online or call (855) 266-6733 today.


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