Pancreas and digestion
Cystic fibrosis causes a build-up of mucus that blocks the ducts in the pancreas, reducing the amount of insulin produced and stopping digestive enzymes from reaching the intestines to aid digestion. This can cause malnutrition, leading to poor growth, physical weakness and delayed puberty. Owing to difficulties digesting fat, many people with cystic fibrosis require more fatty foods and a higher daily calorie intake than those without the condition. Find out more about nutrition in cystic fibrosis.
Medication can help compensate for the failure of the pancreas, such as digestive enzymes that most people with cystic fibrosis take with each meal to help digest food.
Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes
In older people with cystic fibrosis, insulin production can become deficient due to increasing pancreatic disease. Some people develop cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD) and their blood sugar levels are no longer controlled, although this is rare in children.
Common symptoms of diabetes include thirst, hunger, weight loss and an excessive need to urinate, but not everyone will show obvious symptoms. Download our diabetes factsheet (PDF) to find out more.
We are currently funding a CFRD Strategic Research Centre to investigate how it develops and how it can be better managed.
Researching digestive issues
We are funding two Strategic Research Centres which are investigating the ways that the digestive system is affected by cystic fibrosis.
- Professor Soraya Shirazi-Beechey's research at the University of Liverpool will investigate ways to prevent blockages in the gut in people with CF by increasing the levels of fluid in the gut to help move digested food along more easily.
- Professor Daniel Peckham's research at the University of Leeds is looking for the link between the balance of bacteria in the gut of a person with cystic fibrosis and the degree of lung inflammation they experience during an infection.