Diet After Kidney Transplant: What You Need to Know

Published on: 05/16/2023

Receiving a kidney transplant is a life-changing event that can bring significant improvements to your health and well-being. Following a healthy diet after a kidney transplant is an essential part of ensuring the success of the transplant and maintaining optimal health.

This post breaks down the immediate through long-term nutrition tips to know related to transplant!

Immediate Adjustments Post-Transplant

In the first few weeks after your kidney transplant, your body will need to adjust to the new organ. It’s important to make some immediate dietary adjustments to support the healing process and avoid complications.

  • Electrolytes: While admitted, the team will monitor your potassium, sodium and phosphorus closely. You may need to increase intake of these nutrients, which can be weird if they have been restricted while on dialysis.
  • Fluids: Many people need to increase their fluid intake after transplant. If you have been limiting fluids while on dialysis, it can be an adjustment to increase fluid intake by two or even three times the amount you have been drinking.
  • Protein: Protein is essential for tissue repair, but your body may not be able to handle high amounts immediately after surgery. Your team will guide you about how much protein you should consume.

Transplant Mini-Course

Transplant can be a stressful process. I have broken it down and walk you through the steps and topics to bring up with your transplant team!

Short-Term Nutrition Changes After Kidney Transplant

After the first few weeks, you can gradually start reintroducing foods into your diet. However, it’s important to continue to monitor your intake of certain nutrients.

  • Electrolytes: You will likely be able to consume more potassium and phosphorus than you had been before. Many medications can cause hypertension (high blood pressure) so being mindful of sodium intake is still important.
  • Fluids: Your new kidney relies on hydration to work its best. Drinking adequate fluids is important. Your transplant or renal dietitian can advise on how much fluid is right for you.
  • Fat: Your doctor may recommend a low saturated fat diet to avoid complications such as high cholesterol and heart disease. High cholesterol is a known side-effect of many transplant medications.
  • Fiber: Reaching an adequate intake of fiber is important for gut health and blood sugar control. Slowly increasing fiber can help prevent excess gas and bloating. Beans, berries and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber.

Long-Term Nutrition Changes After Kidney Transplant

Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial for long-term success after a kidney transplant. Weight gain in the first year after transplant is very common. Here are some dietary changes to continue:

  • Carbohydrates: Steroids and other immunosuppressant medications can cause insulin resistance. Choosing whole grains over refined grains can help keep blood sugars in check. Brown rice instead of white rice and whole wheat bread instead of white bread are two examples.
  • Fat: Your doctor may recommend a low saturated fat diet to avoid complications such as high cholesterol and heart disease. Instead, choose nuts, avocado or fatty fish as healthier fat sources.
Image showing food safety after kidney transplant. Avoid raw or undercooked meats and buffets.

Foods to Avoid After Kidney Transplant

Food safety is crucial after a kidney transplant, as your immune system will likely be weakened. Here are some foods to avoid:

  • Meats: Avoid undercooked or raw meats. This includes sushi, tartare and even steaks and burgers that are not well-done. 
  • Veggies and Fruit: Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly to avoid contamination from bacteria or viruses.
  • Leftovers: Avoid leftovers that have been in the refrigerator for more than a day, as they can harbor harmful bacteria.
  • Buffets: Avoid buffets or self-service restaurants where food may have been sitting out for a long time. Even pot-luck meals are not the best choice as you are not sure how clean anyone’s home is related to food safety.

A healthy diet is essential for success after a transplant. If you don’t have access to a dietitian post transplant, please reach out and we can schedule a call to see if we are a good fit for private coaching to continue to protect your new organ!

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Hi, I’m Amanda, a renal dietitian here to help you feel more confident in your food choices!

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