Nutrition Concerns Following a Kidney Transplant

Content by: Jamie Rinaldi, RD, MS in Applied Physiology & Nutrition

Use these resources to help clients navigate their post transplant nutrition concerns. While dietary recommendations aren’t as stringent as with dialysis, there are still some nutritional considerations for maintaining optimal health outcomes. Food safety is also an important focus given suppressed immunity following a transplant.

Nutrition Concerns Following a Kidney Transplant

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A preferred alternative to dialysis for end-stage renal disease (ESRD), although more difficult to
attain, may be a kidney transplant. While dietary recommendations aren’t as stringent as with
dialysis, there are still some nutritional considerations for maintaining optimal health outcomes.

First and foremost is attention to a balanced diet with an appropriate calorie level to support
weight stability. Appetite is often improved following a kidney transplant, therefore the potential
for weight gain may be a concern. Consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean
sources of protein, and dairy products is advised to help with weight maintenance.

Medications required to prevent rejection of the new organ may also dictate some dietary
modifications. Certain medications may increase blood sugar, induce diabetes mellitus, raise
cholesterol and triglyceride levels, affect appetite, or cause fluid retention. Other drugs may
raise blood pressure or alter concentrations of other minerals and electrolytes. Routine labs and
measuring of vital signs are instrumental in determining what dietary changes are appropriate in
these circumstances.

Transplant patients are advised to continue a low sodium diet so not to exacerbate the fluid
retention and elevated blood pressure caused by certain medications. These individuals may
also have underlying health conditions that require sodium restriction to manage.

Increased protein intake promotes healing following surgery and building of muscle tissue
broken down by steroid medication, however most transplant patients can return to the standard
recommendation for 0.8-1.0 milligrams per kilogram per day (mg/kg/day) within a month or two.
Preferred sources are those which contain proteins of high biological value, such as eggs, milk,
fish, poultry, pork, beef, and soy.

Finally, food safety is an important focus given suppressed immunity following a transplant.
Patients should avoid raw or undercooked sources of animal protein, unpasteurized dairy
products, unpasteurized juices, sprouts, unwashed produce, and food from buffets and salad
bars.

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