Patients with cystic fibrosis experience malabsorption of fat, which often causes diarrhea. When this occurs, fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamins A, D, E, and K) are also malabsorbed. In order to support proper nutrition, people with cystic fibrosis must consume higher amounts of fat-soluble vitamins than someone without cystic fibrosis.
There are several brands of CF-specific multivitamins that contain fat-soluble vitamins in greater amounts than regular multivitamins commonly available at stores. Almost all brands are available in liquid, chewable, and soft gel forms. CF-specific vitamins (and individual A, D, E, and K) are best absorbed if taken with meals and enzymes.
The team at St. Luke's Cystic Fibrosis Center of Idaho will draw labs yearly to assess each patient's need for changes or additions to your vitamin supplementation. Whenever possible, we'll conduct your vitamin lab tests when you're feeling well.
Why is it important to take CF-specific vitamins?
- Vitamin A is an antioxidant, which means that it may help protect the body from free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells). It also helps support your immune system, bones, eyes, and skin. Vitamin A deficiency is most noticeable in the form of night blindness, or difficulty seeing at night.
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which keeps bones healthy and strong. Vitamin D also supports your nervous and immune systems. Vitamin D deficiency can cause thin or brittle bones and secondary hyperparathyroidism, a condition typically seen in chronic kidney failure where parathyroid hormone (PTH) is excreted in excessive amounts in response to hypocalcemia (not enough calcium in your blood).
- Vitamin E is another antioxidant and supports the immune system and creation of red blood cells. Vitamin E deficiency can lead to problems with your muscles and nerves.
- Vitamin K helps your bones and assists with blood clotting. Vitamin K deficiency can slow blood clotting, which can be dangerous.