Cystic Fibrosis is a congenital disease of children and adults which affects the lungs, intestines and pancreas. The disease is known as CF and is an inherited disease that involves the exocrine glands. These glands produce abnormally viscous mucus that causes chronic respiratory and digestive problems. In the past several years medical research has made vast improvements on the treatment modalities to increase the lifespan of people who suffer from cystic fibrosis. (1)
One of the treatment protocols being researched is the use of antioxidants to reduce the effects of CF on the body. In a research study published in 2004 in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine researchers proposed that antioxidants are promising in the development of treatment approaches for individuals with CF. Several antioxidants have been found to have mucolytic and anti-inflammatory properties. Mucolytic agents will dissolve thick mucus and used to help relieve respiratory problems. (2)
Antioxidants such as zinc and Vitamin C may also increase the epithelial chloride secretion which helps to decrease the symptoms which individuals suffer.
Reactive free radical are also known to play an important role in the degeneration of tissue in lung diseases like cystic fibrosis and adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). These free radicals can originate from normal body processes such as metabolism or from sources outside the body, such as smoking, alcohol, ozone or asbestos. Therefore the use of antioxidants to enhance the defense mechanisms in these disorders seems logical and rational. (3,4)
To this end two drugs, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and ambroxol have been investigated because of their actions in the role of antioxidants and mucuolytic agents. NAC is an effective treatment in other instances and has been theorized to be protective against the side effects of other drugs and will reduce inflammation at the cellular level.
Another study researchers proposed that acute and chronic pancreatitis may be alleviated by micronutrient antioxidants which can help to fight the heightened free radical activity. Short term and long term studies have been underway to determine the efficacy and efficiency of administration of specific antioxidants in the fight against the symptoms of cystic fibrosis. (5)
Another study found that antioxidant therapy was unsuccessful in the treatment of interstitial disease in rats. CF was one of those diseases tested. There were only two antioxidants tested which were drugs developed in the laboratory setting and not used as whole foods.
Another study demonstrated that antioxidant therapy had positive effects in the treatment of pancreatitis. The antioxidants used were selenium, Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Methionine. Each of the products were organic. The results confirmed that with exposure to antioxidants in active treatment phase of pancreatitis, patients experienced amelioration of oxidative stress to the cells without residual effect. (6)
In February 2008 a US patent was applied and granted to provide for methods of enhancing chloride transport in the treatment of cystic fibrosis. This transport is meant to assist in the delivery of antioxidants at the cellular level to fight free radical damage.
At this point there isn’t enough evidence to either support or refute the use of antioxidant therapy in individuals who suffer the effects of cystic fibrosis. The good news is that there is also no evidence that there are negative effects to using antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements. However, before incorporating anything new into your medical regimen it is important to consult with your health care practitioner and pharmacist to be sure that they will not interfere with the actions of your current medicine or any other underlying medical condition.
(1) Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: About cystic fibrosis
(2) Current Opinion in Pulmonary medicine: Potential for Antioxidant Therapy for cystic Fibrosis
(3) Rice University: Antioxidants and Free Radicals
(4) Current Neuropharmacology: Oxidative Stress and Neurodegenerative Diseases: A Review of Upstream and Downstream Antioxidant Therapeutic Options
(5) Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology: Rationale for Antioxidant Therapy in Pancreatitis and Cystic Fibrosis
acute and chronic pancreatitis may be alleviated by micronutrient antioxidants
(6) Revista Espanola de Enfermedades Digestivas: Use of Antioxidants to Treat Pain in Chronic Pancreatitis