5 Things You Need to Know About Benefits of Fish Oils for Cystic Fibrosis

1. Fish Oil and Omega-3s

If there is one “miracle drug” out there, omega-3 fatty acids may be it. Omega-3s are one type of essential fatty acids—meaning we need to obtain them from dietary sources since our bodies can’t produce them. Purported benefits include slowing the aging process, promoting heart health, and improving mood and cognitive function. One of the best sources of omega-3s is coldwater fish like salmon and mackerel. A lot of the research suggests taking 1000 mg or more of these fats daily. Many people find it difficult to incorporate that much fish into their diet and opt to go the supplement route instead.

2. Anti-Inflammatory Omega-3s

What do aging, heart disease, and cystic fibrosis (CF) all have in common? It’s inflammation—a reaction that occurs when our immune system thinks it needs to fight off invaders and instead attacks normal, healthy tissue. One of the most powerful weapons against inflammation is fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids work throughout our bodies to quell this immune system response by decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds. By doing so, they can help prevent disease or at reduce symptom incidence in the case of CF.

3. Lung Support

The major contributor to morbidity and mortality in CF patients is a progressive deterioration in lung function. Chronic pulmonary infections flood the airways of the lungs with white blood cells that then produce pro-inflammatory compounds. This accumulation leads to the formation of a thick, mucous that just perpetuates the dangerous cycle of infection. Researchers have discovered that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids can actually build up their concentration within the membranes of the white blood cells. Potentially, that means a decrease in inflammation and a disruption in the infection cycle.

4. Pancreatic Enzymes

Pulmonary infections aren’t the only serious problem for CF patients. Many also struggle with pancreatic insufficiency. That means that their pancreas can function effectively in the digestive process and they end up with fat malabsorption. To counteract this, many supplement their diet with additional pancreatic enzymes which help the pancreas function more “normally”. When supplementing with fish oil, some CF patients may need to increase their dose of enzymes to deal with the extra fat.

5. The Ideal Dose

Research into the benefits of fish oil for cystic fibrosis has been going on for over ten years. Unfortunately, a consistent positive effect for CF patients using omega-3 supplements has not yet been proven. The ideal dose and route of delivery (oral versus intravenous) is also unclear. More extensive research using longer study periods and larger groups of subjects is still needed. For CF patients and their families, it’s crucial to always consult a physician before starting any type of supplement.