The gastrointestinal tract includes the mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. The gastrointestinal tract issues are highly diverse in cystic fibrosis (CF). Some of these conditions are specific to CF (e.g. meconium ileus and distal intestinal obstruction syndrome) while others are not but are more frequent and/or worsened by CF itself or as part of treatments for CF (e.g. gastroesophageal reflux and constipation). 

Some of the gastrointestinal conditions that affect individuals with CF include:

·       Obstructive issues largely due to mucus build-up

– Meconium ileus

– Constipation, including rectal prolapse, anal fissures and haemorrhoids

– Distal intestinal obstruction
– Intussusception (telescoping of bowels)

·       Gut inflammation and abnormal microbiome

·       Cancer

– Small and large intestines


     The gastrointestinal tract is also susceptible to modifiable and lifestyle factors such as:

·       Insufficient exercise

·       Traveling and other disruptions to your routine

·       Stress

·       Low quality diet

·       Withholding bowel movements

·       Certain medicines (antidepressants, iron pills, strong narcotics)

·       Pregnancy

·       Antacids containing aluminium or calcium.

Individuals with CF who have difficult gastrointestinal issues may benefit from seeking help from a gastroenterologist.

Additional Resources


CF and the Gastrointestinal Tract:

Gastrointestinal manifestations of CF – National Library of Medicine

Gastrointestinal complications of CF – CGH Journal

CF and the digestive system – Stanford Medicine

Gastrointestinal manifestations of CF: a primer for paediatricians – Contemporary Paediatrics

Digestive system and CF – CF Trust


CF and Colorectal complications:

Approach to chronic abdominal pain in CF – CF Journal

Meconium ileus in CF – CF Journal

CF & disorders of the large intestine: DIOS, constipation, and colorectal cancer – CF Journal

Practical approach to the gastrointestinal manifestations of CF – Wiley Online Library

Our Colons Need Your Help – CF News Today

New Comorbidities in the changing face of CF Care – CF Journal


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