Do I need pancreatic enzymes if I have cystic fibrosis?

Aggie Read, RN

The majority of those diagnosed with cystic fibrosis will need pancreatic enzymes. The pancreas normally releases enzymes which travel to the small intestine to help us digest our food. With cystic fibrosis, the pancreas becomes clogged with mucus and the enzymes cannot help process the nutrients, fats and proteins that have been taken in. The food is not absorbed properly, which leads to weight loss, decreased appetite, and large, more frequent stools. By taking digestive enzymes with each meal, those with cystic fibrosis can reduce some of these complications.

The normal pancreas produces enzymes that are transported to the intestine to help the body digest food and absorb nutrients. If you have cystic fibrosis, the connection between your pancreas and intestine is blocked and the enzymes can not be transported. The result is poor digestion and nutrition, poor growth and weight gain, constipation and unpleasant odor from the stool. So, yes, you do need to take pancreatic enzymes by mouth to help improve your digestion. Talk to your doctor about this treatment option.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.