Vitamins are an important part of a balanced diet and available in a variety of foods.
Vitamins play an important role in the daily function of our bodies. They help with growth and development, metabolism, immunity and digestion. There are 13 essential vitamins including A, C, D, E, K and B vitamins such as riboflavin and folate.
The best source of vitamins is food, but supplements are available if the body still isn’t getting enough through diet.
Below are some of the vitamins that are especially important to people with cystic fibrosis (CF)
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that’s stored in the liver. It helps maintain healthy skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. It also produces the pigments in the retina of the eye, so is also known as retinol.
Low levels of vitamin A can result in problems with night blindness and some skin disorders.
For people with CF vitamin A is great for helping the lungs fight infections and boosts the immune system.
Some of the best sources of vitamin A are:
Vitamin A is also available in supplement tablet form from chemists and supermarkets, but food is always the best source of vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that’s found in many foods, fats and oils. It’s an antioxidant, meaning it helps prevent damage to the body’s cells.
For people with CF, vitamin E can work in the lining of the lungs to fight infection and remove harmful free radicals (toxins) that damage cells. It helps keep the intestines and red blood cells healthy.
Low levels of vitamin E can result in problems with your nerves and muscles.
Vitamin E is also available in supplement capsule form from chemists and supermarkets, but food is always the best source of vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin D helps keep bones strong. It does this through helping your body absorb the calcium from your food. In turn this helps to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures, and can help prevent you from shrinking in height. It helps keep your teeth strong and healthy and can have a really positive impact on your mood helping to prevent depression.
One of the best sources of vitamin D is the sun, but despite the vast amounts of sunshine in Australia, vitamin D deficiency is common in a significant number of Australians. People at risk are those with naturally very dark skin, people with little or no sun exposure, older adults, people who wear covering clothing for religious or other reasons, people who are hospitalised for long periods of time and people with a disability or chronic illness.
The ideal level of vitamin D in the blood is 75 nmol/L (nanomoles per litre). That means we need about 400 – 800IU of vitamin D daily.
Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D, but it very important to be mindful of sunburn and the risks of skin cancer. The amount of sunlight needed is actually very small:
When the UV index is three or above, just a few minutes on most days is needed.
When the UV index is below three, spend time outside in the middle of the day.
Visit the Cancer Council website for more information.
Remember to check which of your medications make your skin more likely to burn and balance the good effect of the sun’s rays with the risk of skin cancer from sunburn.
Foods high in vitamin D include:
Vitamin K helps blood to clot and helps prevent haemoptysis (the coughing of blood from a source below the glottis). It also assists in keeping bones strong and preventing osteoporosis.
People with CF are at higher risk of vitamin K deficiency because of pancreatic insufficiency, hepatobiliary (relating to the liver plus the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile) disease, or both.
Please talk to your CF team if you require information vitamin K supplements.