Doctors recommend nephrectomy, or removal of one of the body's two kidneys, for a patient with disease in the kidney or a person willing to donate a kidney to another patient. A person can live a normal life with one healthy kidney, so if the remaining kidney retains full function, a doctor may recommend very few, if any, dietary restrictions after the recovery period for kidney removal surgery. Otherwise, the patient eats a kidney-healthy diet to preserve remaining function in the sole kidney.
During Hospital Recovery
If you have a nephrectomy, the medical staff provides nutrients and fluids through an IV for the first day or two. The digestive system needs time to recover after a major surgery. You may have a catheter inserted in your body for a few hours after surgery to empty the bladder. Some patients tolerate sipping small amounts of fluid or sucking ice chips for the first 24 hours after surgery.
Within a couple days, a patient who has had a kidney removed begins a liquid diet. The liquid diet eases the digestive system back into proper function. Let the nursing staff know about any constipation during this period. It's important to keep the bowels moving while recovering from a nephrectomy, so the doctor may prescribe a stool softener. Drink lots of water to help prevent constipation.
Once the digestive system functions normally, within a few days, you can begin eating normal foods. Ease into eating again with plain, bland choices. Avoid fried or spicy foods. Stress and anxiety about the surgery or recovery strains the digestive system, necessitating gentle choices in diet.
Once you are ready to be released from the hospital, the doctor will let you know if you need to eat a special diet. In general, after nephrectomy, all patients are told to drink lots of fluids. This allows the remaining kidney to keep moving fluid through the body.
Patients with one healthy remaining kidney can return to a normal diet. In general, eating a diet low in sodium is good for the entire body, including the kidneys, so a doctor may recommend this for a patient with only one kidney. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid processed and packaged foods, and check labels to avoid sodium. Flavor foods with garlic, herbs, lemon juice and pepper, instead of salt and soy sauce. Avoid alcohol and quit smoking to aid the body's healing process.
If you have lingering kidney disease or lowered kidney function after removal of the kidney, your doctor may prescribe a special diet for kidney health. A diet for chronic kidney disease lowers sodium, potassium, protein and fluids. Avoid salt substitutes, many of which contain potassium. Choose herbal blends instead. Because many foods high in calcium, such as dairy products, are also high in potassium and phosphorus, your doctor may prescribe medications to keep your bones from losing calcium. Eat more vegetable fats and sugars to avoid losing weight, and follow nutritional guidelines to make sure your body receives proper nutrition and maintains a healthy weight.