Food as Medicine: Recovering from a Kidney Transplant

by Lindsey Harper Mac

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Taking care of yourself after any surgery is important, but as part of aftercare for a kidney transplant it’s essential.

Any organ transplant comes with a list of potential side effects and restrictions, but a kidney transplant brings its own complications. In addition to the medications you’ll be taking, you may also have to take supplements and monitor your intake of minerals like phosphorus, which can decrease the amount of calcium in your blood and cause bone disease.

In addition to making sure you take any medications prescribed and follow instructions from your doctor, eating a healthy diet is also a critical element of your recovery. And because weight gain is a common side effect of a transplant and the steroids you may be taking, you’ll need to pay particular attention to what you eat every day.

Choosing the right diet

Unless you have other underlying health issues, there’s no reason you can’t return to a normal diet after your kidney transplant. But adopting a healthy diet can not only help you recover more quickly from your surgery, it can also help you avoid other health complications.

Talk to your specialist or dietician about a diet plan, but the best diet for recovering after a kidney transplant is:

  • heavy in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • low in animal proteins and fat
  • rich in whole grains

For patients concerned about controlling sugar levels, you should consume complex carbohydrates to keep your sugar levels stable. The interaction of steroid medications and simple carbs can cause high blood sugar, and since steroids can also cause fluid retention, decreasing your sodium intake can help as well.

Fighting kidney disease

Eating healthy can do more than just help kidney transplant patients recover more quickly. It can also help people with other kidney illnesses stay healthy and avoid other illnesses. Because heart disease is common in people with chronic kidney disease, you should talk to your doctor about monitoring your cholesterol levels. Eating a diet that’s low in cholesterol, like a vegan diet, can benefit both kidney and heart health.

Obesity, diabetes, and smoking can all increase your risk for developing the illness. If you’re a kidney transplant patient, don’t smoke; you should also talk to your doctor about an exercise plan that can help you avoid excessive weight gain from your medications. Finally, kidney patients may need to watch  blood sugar levels, but diabetics suffering from kidney disease or recovering from a transplant will want to be particularly vigilant in order to avoid other complications like heart disease.

Recovering from a kidney transplant will take time, diligence and an ongoing dialogue with your health care provider, but a healthy diet can help you return to your regular life.

Lindsey Harper Mac likes blogging for fun. She enjoys healthy eating and living an eco-friendly lifestyle and researches cancer and nutrition and writes on behalf of IUhealth. Cancer is a personal topic for Lindsey, because her family has unfortunately had close ties to the disease, which has led her to an interest in cancer research for her family and their personal well-being. She is in the process of working on her Masters and hopes to continue her education as a lifetime learner.

[Image Credit: Healthy Food photo via Shutterstock]

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