How I manage fatty acids, weight loss with diet and a supplement

Getting nutrients and controlling weight are a challenge with cystic fibrosis

William Ryan avatar

by William Ryan |

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Like others with chronic illness, many of us with cystic fibrosis (CF) have met someone who has recommended something that would “cure” us of our disease. Someone once told me that some kind of tea would clear out all of my mucus and lung infection. While I appreciated their concern, I knew it wasn’t realistic.

I wouldn’t describe myself as stubborn when it comes to medical treatments, but I usually prefer to take what I know works for me. I think many people tend to stick with medicine from trusted sources, like the pharmaceutical companies that produce a lot of what we in the CF world take.

I’m also open to taking supplements that make me healthier — after checking with my doctor first, of course. 

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Trial and error

When I was 13, my mom and I were trying to find something that could replenish my essential fatty acids and help me gain weight, as I was hitting puberty. As a child with CF, I had trouble digesting food because my CF mutations affected my digestive system more than my respiratory system.

One of my doctors had recommended that I eat french fries as I got older as a way to gain weight. But eating junk food depleted my body’s essential fatty acids.

To solve this problem, my gastroenterologist said my mom should make a milkshake concoction with corn oil. To this day, that milkshake was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever had. My mom agreed.

We realized pretty quickly that those milkshakes wouldn’t last and were forced to look elsewhere. One cold and snowy night, my mom and I went to our local health food store, hoping that we’d find something more substantial and cost-efficient than running through milk, ice cream, and corn oil.

After a long talk with my mom to analyze my situation, the store manager recommended a bottle of triple omega 3-6-9 fish oil. Within a few months, and after some bloodwork and a new gastroenterologist, it was determined that despite my no longer drinking the corn oil milkshakes, my body’s fatty acid levels were much healthier.

While I don’t take the fish oil anymore, I do take omega 3-6-9 supplements every day to make sure my body gets the help it needs.

To gain weight, my wife makes me a shake from a recipe she found on a CF Reddit page. It’s made with milk, coconut milk, MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oils, peanut butter, cinnamon, and coconut flakes. Sorry to my former doctor, but this shake tastes much better.

Note: Always check with your doctor before trying any new supplements or changing your diet. 

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


Helen Palmiero avatar

Helen Palmiero

Hi Will! Another informative column, teaching me something else we have in common - FISH OIL supplement(s)! I've been taking 4,800 mg capsules/day for more years than I can count or remember. While I really don't know if it actually improves my health problem, none of my doctors have ever advised me against taking it and it hasn't seemed to hurt me in any way that I'm aware of. At least I know I'm getting some amount of fatty acid in my system. Will, I look forward to your next column to teach me even more. Love, Helen


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