The CDC estimates that as many as 14% of people will get sick from foodborne illnesses each year, and over 100,000 of those people will need to be hospitalized. When you’re recovering from a kidney transplant, you’re at a higher risk for contracting such viruses. Here, we’ll discuss why that is and what dietary choices you can make to stay healthy following your kidney transplant.
Why Do I Need to Follow a Kidney Transplant Diet?
Following your kidney transplant, your medications will weaken your body. As a result, certain foods that you might have normally eaten prior to your transplant can become a threat to your health. Let’s take a closer look at the medications that are responsible for this, and why a proper diet is vital following your transplant.
Immunosuppressants Make You Vulnerable to Foodborne Illnesses
Immunosuppressants, also known as anti-rejection drugs, are one of the most common medications given to kidney transplant patients. You’ll be given a large dose of an immunosuppressant when you undergo the transplant operation, and you’ll be prescribed a ‘maintenance’ immunosuppressant to prevent your body from rejecting your new kidney.
Immunosuppressants prevent the antibodies in your blood from attacking your new kidney, which could ultimately cause your body to reject the transplanted kidney. However, there are health risks associated with taking these medications.
Because these medications can weaken your immune system and make you susceptible to other chronic illnesses like hypertension and diabetes, diet plays a crucial role in protecting you. As their name implies, immunosuppressants reduce your immune system’s ability to fight infections. This can make you more susceptible to all illnesses, but particularly foodborne illnesses.
Steroids May Change the Way Your Body Processes Nutrients
You may also be prescribed steroids following your kidney transplant. However, these medications can cause a variety of side effects, including weight gain, steroid-induced diabetes, and high blood pressure (hypertension).
Steroids can cause your body to retain higher sodium levels following your kidney transplant, so avoid foods high in sodium and don’t add salt to meals. Additionally, you should limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks while taking steroids, as these medications prevent your body from properly regulating glucose levels.
After your transplant, you’ll probably need to take immunosuppressants and steroids for the rest of your life. You may be able to eventually stop taking them, but you should adhere strictly to your healthcare team’s directions and take your medications consistently unless told otherwise.
What Foods Should Kidney Transplant Patients Avoid and Why?
The USDA suggests that high-risk individuals like kidney transplant patients avoid certain foods that are more likely to harbor dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and more. Not sure what foods you should avoid? Our table below provides a quick overview of foods that can be detrimental to your health following a kidney transplant, and other options that pose less health risks.
Following your transplant—and when you’re fully recovered, for that matter—pay careful attention to the best practices for food storage safety. Keep cold foods cold, hot foods hot, and throw away anything that’s been sitting at room temperature for two hours or more. If you’re not sure whether a food is safe, don’t take any chances: when in doubt, throw it out.
What Foods Should Kidney Transplant Patients Eat?
A kidney transplant operation takes a significant toll on your body. It’s crucial to avoid foods that will negatively interact with your medications or put you at risk for infection. At the same time, it’s equally essential to provide your body with enough nutrients and calories to recover from the surgery.
While recovering from your kidney transplant, make sure you get enough of the following:
Care for Your Kidneys With Milwaukee Nephrologists
Milwaukee Nephrologists is Southeast Wisconsin’s leader in kidney care. With over 15 locations throughout the Milwaukee metro area, we’re always close by. Our multidisciplinary team is home to some of the Midwest’s best transplant specialists and dietitians who can help craft a personalized care plan for your kidney health.
Whether you’re beginning dialysis or preparing for a transplant, our team is ready to speak with you. To schedule a consultation, get in touch today!