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While you can enjoy a lot of freedom in your diet after your kidney transplant compared to the dialysis period, there are a few important food-related things you should definitely keep in mind throughout the life of your new kidney. After all, we want your kidney to survive as long as possible. Here is a summary of the most important tips for food shopping, meal preparation and eating out after a kidney transplant!
Here's what you need to know
Das solltest du wissen
Ecco cosa c'è da sapere
Voici ce qu'il faut savoir
Esto es lo que debe saber
  • Due to the immunosuppression caused by medication, it is especially important that you pay attention to a low germ load in your nutrition
  • By using pasteurized food and regularly cleaning your refrigerator, you can significantly reduce the germ load
  • When eating out in restaurants, order cooked food and bottled drinks to minimize the risk of infection
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New kidney - what happens in your body?

After the transplant, you will need to take medications called immunosuppressants. They are necessary to help your body accept your new kidney. Immunosuppressants turn down the activity of your immune cells, allowing your new kidney to arrive and continue living in its new home in a more relaxed way. 

However, this also comes with a few challenges. By shutting down your immune system, these medications also put you at a higher risk of getting infections. To best protect your new kidney, it's therefore important that you take care to minimize germ exposure through your diet by handling food properly. This does not only apply to the preparation of food, but also when shopping and visiting restaurants. You can significantly reduce your risk of infection by creating a few habits. Only a sudden, strong infection can be very dangerous.

If some aspects cannot be implemented in your case, it is best to discuss this with your nephrologist. Together you will certainly find a solution to protect your kidney in the best possible way in your everyday life.

Germs in your diet

What is the connection between germs and your diet? The presence of germs on food is not unusual and occurs more than we think. Germs are actually everywhere in our environment and also on our food. But don't worry, we're talking about low-germ diet here (often referred to as a low-bacteria diet), not a germ-free diet - so don't worry, you certainly won't starve.

The important thing to remember is that some germs are more dangerous than others, and germs feel particularly at home on certain foods. This applies, for example, to meat, milk, eggs or lettuce. You'll find out in a moment how you can recognize dangers and prevent them by shopping with fewer germs or by carefully considering your visit to a restaurant.

Shelf life & bruising

When purchasing and processing food, you should pay particular attention to the best-before date. Avoid foods whose best-before date is about to expire or has already expired, because these foods have an increased risk of contamination.

Basically, you should always check your food to see how it looks and smells before eating it. As soon as something smells or looks strange, or you notice damage to the packaging, you should avoid these foods.

If possible, you should not buy cheese and sausage at the fresh food counter, but already vacuum-packed. This is especially important during the first six months after transplantation to avoid infections. Yes, especially during this time, unfortunately, it is actually safer for you to produce a little more waste.

You should check fruits and vegetables thoroughly for bruises before eating them. Germs accumulate on spots where bruising has occurred and can cause illness if your immune system is weakened by medication.

Juices & Dairy Products

For juices and dairy products, there is a process that ensures these products have a longer shelf life (=pasteurization). In pasteurization, gentle heating of food ensures that bacteria and microorganisms are killed. Afterwards, they are vacuum-packed normally to prevent the entry of new bacteria. After a transplant, you should therefore make sure when shopping that you primarily use pasteurized foods.

In the case of dairy products, you can easily see whether they have been pasteurized by looking at the packaging. As soon as there is a note "Made from raw milk", the dairy products have not been pasteurized. You should therefore avoid these products. If there is no such indication on the packaging, then pasteurized milk was used for the production and you can consume the product without hesitation.

In the case of juices, you can tell if they can be stored unrefrigerated before opening the package. If you don't have to put them in the refrigerator, then they are pasteurized. In addition, pasteurized foods have a much longer shelf life when you look at the best-before date.

Frozen food

In order to avoid the formation of germs in frozen food as best as possible, it is important that the so-called cold chain is maintained throughout. This means that chilled or frozen foods should remain refrigerated during transport until they are actually processed.

With three simple tricks, this is usually possible without any problems:

  1. When shopping, it's best to make sure you don't take frozen products out of the freezer until the very end.
  2. If you have several stops, you should ideally do your grocery shopping in the last stop before heading home.
  3. It's also best to take a cooler bag with you already so you can keep your groceries cooler on the way home.

Raw food

When transporting raw foods, such as fish and meat, you can also prevent the spread of germs as much as possible. It is best to pack these foods in a separate plastic bag during transport to prevent germs from being transferred to other foods.

The right storage

Be sure to store perishable foods in the refrigerator. In general, cool and dark storage is beneficial for all foods. Since your refrigerator is in contact with a wide variety of foods, it's important to clean it out and clean it regularly. In particular, opened food and food scraps are a breeding box for germs. To prevent the further spread of these germs, it's best to wipe out the compartments of your fridge with vinegar once a week. A sparkling clean fridge is almost half the battle!

Hygiene when eating out

Do you like to go out to eat and enjoy the freedom of your post-dialysis life to the full? That's great, because that's how it should be! When you go out to eat, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of infection:

1. Be careful with raw food

It is best to avoid raw food, because compared to the supermarket, you do not know how germ-free the restaurant has stored and prepared the food.

2. Buffets & bread baskets

Buffets and bread baskets are also better to avoid, as unrefrigerated and shared food platters are a land of plenty for germs. Restaurants are also, unfortunately, not quite as clean as they may appear when you enter.

3. Preparation of food

It is best to order food that is long cooked or cooked through. Salads or other cold dishes should only be ordered if you can ensure that they are fresh and prepared with good kitchen hygiene in mind. Otherwise, the general principles of low-bacteria nutrition apply, for which you can find a lot more information & help in the Mizu app.

If you order takeaway dishes, you should transport them in a closed container and reheat them in the microwave before eating them. They should be heated at 600 watts for at least three minutes. In these conditions, most germs and microorganisms can be killed.

4. Beverages

When it comes to beverages, you can easily order anything that is filled in unopened bottles. If possible, avoid ice cubes, as these are usually stored open for a long time and can therefore be a bacterial farm depending on the length of storage.

Familiarize your friends & family

As you can see, a few small changes can go a long way toward protecting you and your new kidney from infection. This will be an adjustment, especially in the beginning, compared to the time on dialysis. But you will see that you will get used to it very quickly. It's best to introduce your family and friends to these important changes right at the beginning. For example, share this article or other content from the Mizu app with them. If those around you are aware of your restrictions and the reasoning behind them, they are guaranteed to give you the best possible support in implementing these measures.

If you are struggling to implement them, talk to family, friends and your nephrologist. They will certainly do everything they can to give you and your new kidney the best possible support.

Medically reviewed by:
Medizinisch überprüft durch:
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