Nutrition After Kidney Transplant
How will my diet change after kidney transplant surgery?
While renal failure might have caused you to experience many limitations on the types of foods you could eat before your transplant, several of these dietary restrictions might not apply after transplant surgery. Because of the new freedom to indulge in many different foods, and an increased feeling of hunger due to medicines such as prednisone (Deltasone), it is easy to see why excessive weight gain is a common problem for many transplant patients. Please refer to serving size information at ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Will I have a nutritional plan to follow?
Yes. In order to monitor your weight gain after transplant surgery, a registered dietitian, a nutrition expert, will work with you to develop a nutritional plan. This plan will be determined by your weight, blood work results, kidney function, and medicines. The information in this handout describes some of the guidelines a dietitian might recommend for you. These guidelines cover only some of the changes that might take place in your diet. Your dietitian will plan a nutritional program to meet your personal needs.
As your new kidney begins to function, your body is able to rebuild bone mass that might have been lost during renal failure. While these “hungry bones” are busy gaining strength, your blood phosphorous level could drop quite low. Your dietitian will encourage you to eat foods high in phosphorous, such as low-fat dairy products. Your doctor might also order phosphorous pills.
Some transplant medicines might cause your potassium level to dramatically increase or decrease. This is a serious condition, but fortunately, it usually does not last long. In order to control your blood potassium level, make sure to eat the foods your dietitian recommends.
Sodium or salt
Many people experience high blood pressure or fluid retention following a kidney transplant. If fluid retention or high blood pressure are problems for you, the dietitian will incorporate low-salt foods throughout your meal plan. While the phosphorous and potassium concerns mentioned here are generally corrected within a month or two, a low-sodium diet might need to be followed indefinitely.
A low-fat diet is important for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing heart disease, among other health conditions. The American Heart Association recommends limiting total calories from fat to less than 30 percent. That's about 65 grams of fat or less a day if you eat 2,000 calories a day.
How can I control my weight and cholesterol levels?
Two common long-term problems for transplant patients are weight gain and high cholesterol levels. The following suggestions might help you control both.
The medicine prednisone (Deltasone) might cause you to experience an increased appetite, which could lead to excess weight gain. Because you might or might not need to gain weight after your transplant, it is important to discuss this concern with your dietitian. If you do need to watch your weight, it doesn’t mean you have to eat less food — just be more selective about the foods you do eat. Your dietitian will work with you to achieve and maintain your ideal weight.
In general, you should follow these suggestions:
- Limit foods that are high in fat and calories.
- Include more high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, and pasta in your diet.
- Consult your doctor for recommendations on the types of exercise you can include in your daily schedule.
High cholesterol levels
By limiting fat in your diet and eating foods high in fiber, you might be able to control high cholesterol levels. If you are overweight, your dietitian will discuss a diet plan that is low in both fat and cholesterol.
Food safety is especially important for people with suppressed immunity:
- Wash hands with soap and water before cooking.
- Limit fresh fruits and vegetables and always wash well before eating.
- Limit your restaurant meals, avoiding salad bars and buffets.
- Do not eat undercooked (rare) meats or eggs. Cook ground meat well. Always check with a meat thermometer.
- Have a separate cutting board only for chicken. A very good information source is www.fightbac.org.
Making an appointment with a dietitian
Dietitians are available in the hospital, at the Transplant Clinic, and also in the Cleveland Clinic Department of Nutrition Therapy. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment with a dietitian, please call 216.444.3046, or 1.800.223.2273, ext. 43046.