Top tips to help you manage CF-related diabetes

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Developing CF-related diabetes (CFRD) is one of the most common complications of cystic fibrosis. In fact, one in three adults with CF in the UK is currently living with the condition. Following World Diabetes Day last week, we chatted to specialist CF dietitian Julie Al-Siaidi about the challenges of living with and treating CFRD, and we hear from the CF community about your top tips for managing it. Thank you to everybody who shared their advice!

Julie Al-SiaidiHow do you diagnose CFRD?

Julie: Mostly people are diagnosed at their annual reviews. We also check blood glucose for all our inpatients for three days; if there are any abnormal results, we get them to test at home and if these results continue, we will diagnose them with CFRD.

How does CFRD affect the dietary advice you give to people with CF?

Julie: It’s largely the same advice we give to people without diabetes; eat complex carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, and cereal, which are slower to digest and cause a slow rise in blood glucose, and cut down on sugary drinks and sweets, which are easily digested and can cause a rapid rise in blood glucose. If someone has a low BMI we would advise having sugary drinks and sweets at meal times only.

Prepare for the unpredictable! Always travel with lots of needles, as well as lots of sugar

Person with CF

Listen to your body!

Person with CF

What do you find is the biggest challenge for people with CFRD?

Julie: People don’t like pricking their fingers to measure their blood glucose, but it’s essential for good diabetes control. There is a new sensor called the Freestyle Libre, which stays on the arm and allows you to measure blood glucose with a reader or a smart phone.

How do you decide the best way for someone to manage their insulin?

Julie: We use blood glucose data from different points throughout the day, a detailed food chart and information about exercise, then work with the CF nurses and the endocrinologist (specialist doctor in diabetes) to decide the best insulin for the individual.

The more you monitor, the easier it is to control

Person with CF

Ask your GP for the Freestyle Libre – it’s awesome

Person with CF

What should friends and family know about CFRD?

Julie: People with CF will be given advice from a CF Specialist Dietitian; there is not one diet for all, so if you see someone eating cake or chocolate, or having a spoon of sugar in their tea or coffee, that’s okay!

It’s scary at first, but don’t let it overrule your life, do everything the doctor tells you and you’ll be just fine!

Person with CF

There are lots of apps out there that can help you with carb counting

Person with CF

CF-related diabetes

Find out more about how CFRD (cystic fibrosis-related diabetes) differs from type 1 or type 2 diabetes, which symptoms to expect and how to help treat it.

Our helpline

Our Helpline is available to anyone looking for information or support with any aspect of cystic fibrosis, a listening ear, or just to talk things through. Our friendly team are here if you need us.

CF-related diabetes research

Exactly how CFRD develops in the body isn’t fully understood and that’s why we’re funding research to find out. Read more about what we’ve learnt from our funding so far, and how ongoing research could pave the way for insulin-injection free treatments in the future.

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