You should not need a very special diet if your new kidney is functioning well, but this is a good time to think about your general health and the positive things you can do to improve it. More info about kidney transplants.
If your transplant is functioning at less than 50%, you may need to follow some parts of the advice in diet for patients with chronic kidney disease.
Early after the transplant
If your transplant works well from the start, limitations on what you can eat and drink will usually be relaxed quite quickly. Other people may need to stick to restrictions for longer, or if they have had a difficult time, they may need supplements of calories or protein.
The first few weeks - get your diet right for the future
If your transplant is now working, it is an important time to get your diet right so that you keep yourself, and your new kidney, as healthy as possible.
Healthy eating is not a 'diet ' - it requires a gradual change in your eating behaviour and should become a regular part of your lifestyle. After a transplant it is important to prevent obesity, diabetes, and blood vessel disease caused by high cholesterol. This generally involves
- Enjoying what you eat and having a varied diet
- Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Limiting fat, sugar and salt
- Being a healthy weight
- Keeping alcohol intake within safe levels
- Increase activity and exercise
You can get more information about healthy eating and food safety below and at the websites listed at the foot of this page.
Three particularly common or important issues are mentioned below.
Will I gain weight after my transplant?
Many people gain weight following a transplant, especially in the first year. This can be due to freedom from dietary restrictions, feeling well, increased appetite, and lack of exercise. Steroid treatment can make it harder to control weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight is very important for your health as being overweight puts a strain on your body contributing to many health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
If you are overweight it is worthwhile trying to lose some weight before you receive your transplant.
It is possible to maintain a healthy weight after your transplant if you make the necessary changes to your diet at an early stage. It is much easier to prevent weight gain than it is to try to lose weight, and it is sensible to make changes to your eating habits as early as possible to prevent weight gain.
It is also very beneficial to gradually increase your activity & exercise to help control weight.
The medicines you take to prevent rejection of the transplant also make you more prone to infections. Here are reminders to reduce the risk of gettting infections from food:
- Avoid soft ripened cheeses like Brie, Camembert and blue veined types unless they have been pasteurised.
- Cook eggs thoroughly; avoid foods containing raw eggs.
And here is advice which everyone should follow all the time, but which is even more important for transplant patients:
- Take chilled and frozen foods home quickly and store at the correct temperature. Use a cool bag if there is likely to be some delay.
- Check the temperature of your fridge and freezer with a fridge/freezer thermometer sometimes. You fridge should be 0-5 degrees and your freezer -18 degrees C or colder.
- Store and prepare raw and cooked foods separately. Raw food, especially meat, should be on the bottom shelf or where they cannot drip down onto other things.
- Wash your hands before handling food.
- Defrost completely and cook food well so that it is cooked (or re-heated) thoroughly all the way through.
- Ensure if food has a 'use by' date that it is thrown away when this has expired.
Long term steriod use can damage the bones, a calcium supplement may be given to you, but a diet with plenty of calcium in it is sensible too.
Most calcium in our diet comes from dairy products, milk and milk products. Some is also found in fortified bread and cereals, nuts, eggs, and leafy green vegetables.
More information on healthy eating
These websites are good:
Acknowledgements: The authors of this page were Elizabeth Sloan, Hazel Elliott and Susan Reed. It was first published in January 2001 and extensively revised in August 2006 then reviewed again by Susan Reed in May 2010. The date is was last modified is shown in the footer.