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Table of Contents > Articles > Nutrition, Herbs, and Supplements for ...
Nutrition, Herbs, and Supplements for Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a condition that results from an abnormal gene being passed on to a child from each one of his or her parents. People with cystic fibrosis have overactive mucus and sweat glands, leading to blocked airway passages and dehydration. Cystic fibrosis is characterized by chronic coughing, wheezing, asthma, and fatigue. Since at present there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, treatment focuses on easing symptoms, preventing infections, slowing the progress of the disease, and generally improving quality of life. Doctors often advise physical therapy, exercise, and medications to reduce inflammation and mucus buildup and to fight infections. Nutrition, supplements, and herbal remedies also play a critical part in a comprehensive treatment plan.

Nutritional Guidelines

If you or someone you are caring for has cystic fibrosis, it's important that you realize how much diet can influence the symptoms and severity of this disease. Adhering to the following recommendations can help to protect organs, reduce infections, and improve quality of life.

  • Limit foods that encourage the body to make mucus, such as dairy products (especially milk, cream, and ice cream), peanuts, oranges, bananas, sugar, saturated fats, wheat and gluten-containing grains (barley, oats, and rye), meat, and salt.
  • Increase intake of foods that reduce mucus, such as garlic, onions, watercress, horseradish, mustard, parsley, celery, rose hip tea, pickles, umeboshi plums, and lemon.
  • Eliminate food allergens. Common food allergens include milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, food colorings, and additives.Talk to your doctor about determining food sensitivities through an elimination diet or a food allergy test.
  • Reduce foods in the diet that may contribute to inflammation, including saturated fats (meats, especially poultry, and dairy), refined foods, and sugar.
  • Increase intake of anti-inflammatory oils (found in nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish).

Dietary Supplements

  • Increase dietary intake of the following antioxidants: selenium (200 mcg per day), vitamin E (400 IU per day), vitamin C (500 to 1,000 mg two to three times a day), and beta-carotene (25,000 IU a day).
  • Take n-acetyl cysteine to reduce mucus and protect lung tissue from damage. The recommended dose is 200 mg three times a day.
  • Take zinc (10 to 30 mg a day) to support the immune system.
  • Take quercetin (250 to 500 mg before meals) to reduce inflammation.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking pancreatic enzymes with your meals; they aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients from foods.

Herbal Remedies

Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures. Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures are preparations made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.

  • To liquefy mucus: mix equal parts of four to six of the following herbs: thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata), anise (Pimpinella anisum), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis). Take 20 to 60 drops in tincture form two to four times a day.
  • For acute infections: combine equal parts of coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), and elecampane (Inula helenium) with 15 drops of cayenne (Capsicum annuum). Take 20 to 30 drops in tincture form every three to four hours.

Be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which herbal or nutritional supplements are for you. Some supplements should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: August 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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