Vitamins are organic substances needed by the human body in specific amounts to support numerous metabolic processes. People with certain diseases can lack the ability to synthesize parts or all of these substances, including people with cystic fibrosis (CF), which is why vitamin supplements are often prescribed as part of a treatment plan.
Vitamin deficiency can have many causes, from inadequate diet, to increased bodily requirements due to pregnancy or lactation, drug use, or disease. Vitamins are usually divided into fat- or water-soluble formulations, and CF patients are most commonly prescribed fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E and K — to fight chronic the malabsorption that is characteristic of the condition.
Vitamins for Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Patients with cystic fibrosis often need supplements of vitamins A,D, E and K, fat-soluble vitamins with antioxidant properties that work as coenzymes for biological pathways, neurodevelopment, bone development, and coagulation. “Good nutrition is an important part of staying healthy with cystic fibrosis. …Vitamins are needed to help your body grow, function and fight off infection. People with CF need extra vitamins for good general health,” the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) reports.
Most multivitamin preparations designed for CF patients include more than one vitamin and are known as ADEKs. ADEKs use water-mixable forms of fat-soluble vitamins to improve their absorption. The preparation usually also includes vitamin C and B-complex, and other vitamins plus zinc to supplement dietary intake. The type of vitamins given and their dosage, however, are defined according to a patient’s age and stage of the disease.
How Vitamins Work
While patients may be prescribed a combination of vitamins, each of them has specific usages. Vitamin A plays many roles in maintaining health, including improving vision, cell function, immunity, and intestinal health, as well as promoting bone and tooth formation, and protecting against infections. Similarly, vitamin D is helpful in the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth — it’s crucial for calcium and phosphate absorption — an important point given that CF patients can have brittle bones.
“Hypovitaminosis D is almost universal in CF patients, likely due to a combination of inadequate absorption, impaired metabolism, and lack of sun exposure. Inadequate levels are associated with the high prevalence of bone disease or osteoporosis in CF patients, which is associated with increased morbidity including fractures, kyphosis, and worsening pulmonary status,” write the authors of the study, “Vitamin D Deficiency in Cystic Fibrosis.”
As an antioxidant, vitamin E protects the body against the oxidation of compounds, which can become harmful. It also improves the health of red blood cells, and helps to combat infections and to maintain good intestinal function. Vitamin K promotes blood clotting, and aids in bone health.
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