Award Banner
Award Banner

Cystic fibrosis in babies could cause stomach ailments, says new study

Cystic fibrosis in babies could cause stomach ailments, says new study
PHOTO: Pexels

Babies are sensitive to changes in their first few months of life. And parents need to be extra careful when it comes to every little detail, right from diapers, clothes, soap, to even their own food choices.

You'd never know what may disagree with your child’s health and trigger problems for the little one. This is particularly the case with food choices, especially when you shift from breast milk or bottle milk to solid foods. Even then some babies can develop gastrointestinal issues that will give them tummy aches and more. 

However, some babies may face gastrointestinal issues due to cystic fibrosis (CF), as per new research. It suggests that CF in babies could be a reason for stomach problems in infants in the first year after birth. This is a genetic disorder that causes damage to the body’s organs including the lungs and the digestive tract.

If your baby is crying too often due to tummy aches, it could be CF in babies symptoms. 

What is cystic fibrosis in babies?

The disorder is a defective gene that makes the body’s natural lubricants like mucus, sweat and digestive juices become thick and sticky. When mucus builds up in the digestive system, it blocks tubes in the pancreas and even an organ in the tummy. CF also makes it difficult for the baby’s digestive system to break down food. 

When the body is unable to break down food, it’s not able to get the required nutrients either, which the infant needs to stay healthy and grow as per their age.

CF can also affect the lungs due to thick mucus that can block airways and cause breathing problems and infections to the lungs. The disorder can cause severe damage and can sometimes be deadly as well. 

Babies will be diagnosed with CF usually in the first month after birth. And the earlier you find out, the faster you can begin the treatment. There’s still a lot of research needed around CF and its effects on babies, and the new study states that infants run the risk of developing stomach ailments. 

Cystic fibrosis in babies: Symptoms

Here’s a look at the symptoms of CF in babies. 

  • Lung infections
  • Cough or wheezing
  • Poor weight gain or growth
  • Inability to exercise
  • Recurring sinusitis
  • Severe or recurring constipation
  • Greasy bowel movements and foul smell

61 out of 231 babies suffered gastrointestinal issues: Study

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. Researchers considered 231 babies diagnosed with cystic fibrosis during the newborn screening.

They followed the infants for their first year of life and recorded any hospitalisations that were a result of gastrointestinal issues.

Out of all the participants, about 61 babies were taken to the hospital at least once over a period of 12 months due to gastrointestinal issues.

The data from the study allowed researchers to identify certain factors that made babies with CF more susceptible to stomach problems. 

These factors include:

  • High levels of faecal calprotectin
  • Abundance of faecal Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Treatment with acid-suppressive medication
  • Lower weight-for-length Z scores
  • Having received a high dose of pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT)

Researchers hope their findings will help medical professionals identify CF in babies, who are more at risk of gastrointestinal issues. Doctors can then take measures to prevent the effects of CF that may cause stomach ailments.

At present, doctors prescribe babies and children with CF medicines including: 

  • Mucus thinners
  • Bronchodilators
  • Antibiotics.
  • Ibuprofen
  • Hypertonic saline

Cystic fibrosis in babies with digestion issues: Treatment 

CF can be a cause of weight gain or slow growth in a child, with the latter being a common issue. In such cases, doctors prescribe special medicines for the baby that will help the body get nutrients from food. 

These medicines help with weight gain and digestion. At the same time, parents need to ensure the child eats high-calorie meals with extra vitamins A, D, E, and K.

You may also want to refer to a professional dietician who could help you create a special meal plan for your child. 

As per the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in the US, the disorder is most commonly seen in Caucasian newborns with at least one case in 1500 - 3500 births. The number increased to one in 17,000 with infants of African descent, and further to one in 100,000 in Asian babies. 

This article was first published in theAsianparent.

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.