A Typical Kidney Transplant Diet

Kidney transplant diet, together with immunosuppressive (or anti-rejection) medication is essential for post-surgery care.

Transplant surgery diets and anti-rejection medications play a vital role in minimizing the risk of rejection of the transplanted kidney, by the patient's (recipient's) immune system.

Kidney transplant diets should always be determined by an appropriately trained medical professional.

A suitable diet for kidney transplant patients is normally prescribed by a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

This is important, since the needs of each patient may be different and would require the guidance of a competent professional, with specialized training in this area. Diets should be designed to ensure that the patient is receiving essential nutrients, without aggravating any allergies or any underlying conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

After reviewing the patient's medical history and other relevant factors, a dietitian or nutritionist will be able to recommend foods that are appropriate for the patient.

Components of a Typical Kidney Transplant Diet

A good transplant diet should be based on the patient's medical status, taking into account any underlying conditions (such as diabetes or high blood pressure), which may have caused kidney failure.

Immediately after a kidney transplant surgery, it is important not to place too much pressure on the new transplanted kidney. There must be an adequate period of time for the patient's body to accept the new kidney and for them to recuperate from the transplant surgery. During this sensitive period (and beyond), their diet must be appropriate to help support and maximize their chances of a successful kidney transplant.

The main objective of a transplant diet should be to optimize the health of the patient, while minimizing the stress on the transplanted kidney.

A typical kidney transplant diet is low in sodium, potassium, and phosphorous, three substances that the kidneys regulate. Excessive consumption of any of these three substances can overwork and distress the transplanted kidney.

The following are some very general guidelines that should be considered when formulating a kidney transplant diet.

  • Limit sodium intake. Avoid foods with a high salt (sodium) or MSG content. It is important to read food labels. Some patients are able to use salt substitutes, but it is always advisable to seek the advice of a competent qualified medical professional. Some salt substitutes contain relatively high levels of potassium, which is not recommended for some kidney transplant patients.

  • Limit intake of potassium. As mentioned above, some salt substitutes may contain high levels of potassium. It may also be found in dairy products and some chocolates.

  • Limit the intake of phosphorous. This is found in protein-rich foods like milk, meat, fish, eggs and poultry. It is also found in legumes and nuts. Phosphorous is also found in foods with phosphorus-boosting additives such as baked goods, bread, processed meats and cheeses, and soft drinks.

  • Limit protein intake. This may be another dietary restriction, depending on the cause of kidney failure. This is found in many of the foods mentioned above.

  • Increase consumption of plant-based foods. Unprocessed plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and other essential nutrients. A dietitian will be able to determine the specific foods and the correct quantities that are appropriate for each individual patient. You may click here for a list of some excellent plant-based foods, which may be appropriate for kidney transplant patients (and non-patients alike).

In addition to transplant diets, doctors may also prescribe medication and vitamin supplements, to treat underlying conditions and to boost any nutritional deficiencies. For instance, patients with hypertension and/ or diabetes may require medication to control blood pressure and blood sugar.

A multivitamin (including vitamin D, which promotes absorption of calcium) along with calcium supplements, may also be prescribed.

Remember, these are general guideline. An appropriate kidney transplant diet should be properly structured by a qualified dietitian or nutritionist and should be tailored to suit each patient's needs. It is therefore important for kidney transplant patients to consult with a competent dietitian or nutritionist, who is qualified to recommend appropriate diet for kidney transplant patients.