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Transplant – Diet and Nutrition After Transplant


My name is SueAnn Delecato. I am a registered dietician at Albany Medical Center for the kidney transplant program. I would like to take a few minutes to talk about diet and nutrition after a kidney transplant. There are four topics that I will be discussing, including following a more liberalized and heart healthy diet after transplant. By liberalized I mean no longer needing to restrict potassium and phosphorous in your diet. Sometimes these are what people with kidney failure have to follow before transplant. This is only of course if your new kidney is working properly. I will also discuss the importance of following general food safety guidelines after transplant to prevent foodborne illness. Avoiding herbs, botanicals, grapefruit and pomegranate juice will also be discussed briefly. Keeping your heart healthy is important in general and especially after a kidney transplant. Following a heart healthy diet includes eating less salt if your blood pressure is or remains high, and sometimes medications can cause your blood pressure to be high and sometimes cause fluid retention as well. Avoiding high fat, greasy food and junk foods. This will help keep your weight and cholesterol levels under control. Some transplant medications can cause cholesterol and triglyceride levels to rise also. Eat fruits and vegetables daily. Fruits and vegetables have natural fibers in them which can help keep you regulated, control cholesterol levels, and keep you feeling full longer. Many fruits and vegetables are also known to contain antioxidants that can help prevent cancer. Foodborne infections are a common and sometimes life-threatening concern for millions of people. For those that are immunocompromised, for example after a kidney transplant, the risk of foodborne infection may be high. For this reason we at Albany Medical Center recommend following some basic food safety recommendations to reduce your risk of infection and illness. These recommendations are especially important during the first few months after your transplant when you are most likely to be on high doses of immunosuppression medications. Some general guidelines to follow include avoiding raw meats and fish, making sure you cook your meat until it’s no longer pink inside. Hard cook or scramble your eggs, no runny yolks. Fruit and vegetables that you intend to eat raw should be washed with a vinegar and water mixture. Generally a recipe of one part vinegar to three parts water will do the trick. Rinse your vegetables and fruits after you rinse them with the vinegar and water mixture and then consume them. If your fruits and vegetables are cooked you shouldn’t have a problem ’cause that should be able to kill the bacteria if there’s any on them. Avoid buffets and salad bars. These places are breeding grounds for bacteria. Wash your hands when preparing foods, washing cutting boards, and countertops well. If you have well water, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you have your water tested regularly for contaminants and bacteria. City water and bottled water are generally considered safe to drink. If you are taking, or considering taking, herbal or botanical supplements, it is recommended that you don’t. Some may increase the risk of organ rejection, such as ginseng and echinacea, and others may cause a drug interaction with transplant medications you are taking. St. John’s Wort is another example. Finally, both grapefruit and pomegranate juice can alter the effects of your transplant medications as well. We therefore recommend that you avoid these products too. In summary, most kidney transplant patients can enjoy a more liberalized diet after transplant. Please keep in mind that following general food safety recommendations will decrease your chances of contracting a foodborne illness while taking immunosuppression medications, especially during the first few months after transplant. Eating a well-balanced diet which includes fruits and vegetables will keep your body healthy and prevent unwanted weight gain. Avoiding excessive salt intake, high fat foods, and junk foods will also keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar under good control.

Randall Smitham

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