When patients are evaluated for a liver or kidney transplant, they go through a nutrition risk screening to assess their nutrition status to see if they need to make any improvements in their eating habits, to better prepare them for the transplant process. Those at risk see registered dietitian at the Jefferson Transplant Institute Carlene Bowen for counseling to better prepare them for any nutritional changes before, during and after for the rigors of a major surgery.
Both liver and kidney transplant patients follow most of the same restrictions including maintaining a 2000mg of sodium restriction per day in order to maintain blood pressure control and avoid fluid re-accumulation. In liver patients, malnutrition often exists due to loss of appetite and muscle wasting as part of their liver disease. Renal patients tend to need more education on controlling their diabetes and weight loss. In order to receive a kidney transplant, a patient’s body mass index (BMI) needs to be less than 38.
Post-transplant, patients often regain some weight. Carlene advises patients practice portion control and healthy food choices and regular physical activity. Both liver and kidney transplant recipients take the same immunosuppressant medications, so the nutrition related side effects are the same. Therefore, they need to be extra careful about the foods they consume. We still recommend patients watch their sodium are mindful of the fat content in their meals.” New Onset Diabetes after Transplant (NODAT) as well as fatty liver are common issues after transplant; Patients who need extra counseling can be seen at our Comprehensive Weight Management Center.
“We recommend not eating anything from a buffet or salad bar in the first six months after transplant due over exposure and increase the risk of foodborne illness. (as the presence of bacteria is extremely likely),” said Carlene. “Patients should not eat anything raw or undercooked, and grapefruit and pomegranate both interact with the immunosuppressant medications.
Carlene also told us, “According to the USDA, there are four steps to safely preparing your food:”
- Clean: Be sure to wash the area in which you are preparing your food as well as your own hands
- Separate: Keep any uncooked foods away from other groceries.
- Cook: Measure the temperature of all cooked foods to make sure they’re safe to eat
- Chill: Within two hours after cooking, refrigerate perishable items
She continued, “We want patients to enjoy their new organ by practicing a healthy lifestyle, to get the full potential of their new gift.”