Cystic fibrosis is a multi-system autosomal-recessive genetic disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas, liver and intestine. It is characterised by abnormal transport of chloride and sodium across epithelial membranes, leading to thick, viscous solutions.
The disease is chronic and progressively worsens over time, although prognosis is improving with due to earlier diagnosis and better treatments. In Western countries, people with Cystic Fibrosis can live to their 30’s or 40’s.
CF is typically diagnosed in childhood after a chronic lung disease or obstruction. A functional Medicine approach supports the body as a whole, correcting underlying imbalances, addressing gut barrier permeability, supporting the immune system and naturally strengthening the respiratory system and supporting mucous membranes.
Causes of Cystic Fibrosis
Genetically inherited defect, causing abnormal chloride and sodium secretions across mucous membranes.
Signs and symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis
- Thick sticky mucous in airways and lungs
- difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chronic cough
- Frequent lung and sinus infections
- Malabsorption and malnutrition – due to blocking of pancreatic enzymes
- GI symptoms: heartburn, constipation
- Salty tasting skin
- Poor growth / poor weight gain
- Generalised edema (due to hypoproteinaemia)
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
- Pancreatitis and pancreatic fibrosis
- Intestinal blockage
- Liver damage and cirrhosis
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Heart failure
Nutritional and alternative therapies may help to decrease the severity of disease progression, protect organ function and minimise opportunistic infections in cystic fibrosis.
TREATMENT STRATEGY FOR CYCTIC FIBROSIS
- Support immune system / prevent infection
- Uncover immune triggers and immune deficiencies
- Reduce mucous production and tone/repair mucous membranes
- Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
- Support digestion (including liver and pancreatic function)
- Assess and improve gut function and intestinal permeability
- Improve nutritional status
- Support nervous system
Diet plan guidelines for Cystic Fibrosis
- Fresh, wholefood, Paleo or Mediterannean style diet high in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish and plant proteins, grass fed meats and olive oil
- Increase mucolytic foods: garlic, onion, watercress, horseradish, mustard, parsley, celery, rose hips tea, pickles, lemons
- Emphasise anti-inflammatory foods: in cold-water oily fish, berries, nuts and seeds, turmeric, ginger, green tea, olive oil
- Emphasise antioxidant-rich foods to support immune function: berries, green tea, turmeric, fruits and vegetables
- Minimise pro-inflammatory foods: sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, excessive commercially produced red meat, saturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids, caffeine and alcohol
- Include vitamin C and quercetin-rich foods: e.g. berries, cherries, citrus, apples, onions, parsley, black and green tea, kale, broccoli
Supplements that support Cystic Fibrosis
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune support
- Garlic supplement: broad spectrum antibiotic and mucolytic
- N-acetyl cysteine: mucolytic action, antioxidant
- Digestive enzymes with meals
- Omega-3 EFA’s: anti-inflammatory
- Broad spectrum antioxidants: beta-carotene, vitamin E, selenium, coQ10
- Protein supplementation may be necessary in hypoproteinaemia
Herbal Medicine treatment that supports Cystic Fibrosis
- Immune support: echinacea, andrographis, olive leaf, Siberian ginseng, reishi/shitake
- Expectorants: thyme, elecampane, mullein, licorice, anise, hyssop, cayenne
- Mucous membrane tonics: goldenseal, eyebright
- Bitters (digestive, pancreatic and liver function): gentian, fringe tree, dandelion, blue flag
- Antimicrobials: goldenseal, Echinacea, thyme, wild indigo
- Anti-inflammatory: boswellia, turmeric, ginger
- Anti-oxidants: turmeric, green tea, rosemary, grapeseed, St Mary’s thistle
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE TREATMENT OF CYSTIC FIBROSIS
Cystic Fibrosis is a debilitating disease that substantially lowers a person’s life expectancy and quality of life.
Advanced Functional Medicine has experience supporting people with this chronic illness. Assessing gut function and intestinal permeability, optimising the immune system, supporting mucous membranes and balancing deficient minerals are all effective strategies that have helped patients improve quality of life. Studies show that by improving these systems a patients symptoms can be improved greatly.
If you or a family member are suffering from cystic fibrosis and would like some holistic support we would love to hear from you, what treatments have helped you the most? Have you improved symptoms through rebuilding the gut microbiome? Please write a comment below.