The Pancreas

Most people with CF have pancreatic insufficiency which means that more than 98% of the pancreatic tissue is not functioning and is replaced with fatty tissue. The pancreatic tissue normally produces proteins called enzymes that are released into the gut and help to break down food so the nutrients can be absorbed. When the pancreas does not produce these enzymes, people are at risk for poor fat absorption which leads to deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), fatty stools, and weight loss. About 85% of individuals with CF take pancreatic enzymes by mouth so that they can digest and absorb food normally. People with CF who have poor nutrition are more prone to chest infections therefore, it is important to ensure that you are a healthy weight. This involves eating a “CF Diet” (typically high in calories and fat), taking the appropriate enzymes with meals, and ensuring that you are not below the recommended weight range for your height. Click here for more information on taking enzymes and vitamins. About 10-15% of people with CF do not need pancreatic enzyme replacement (meaning less than 98% of their pancreas is destroyed) and they are termed "pancreatic sufficient". These people are prone to ongoing inflammation of the pancreas, called “pancreatitis”, which can present as central abdominal pain.