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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 12. 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 2. 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 2. 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.
- If you have a nephrectomy, the medical staff provides nutrients and fluids through an IV for the first day or two 2.
- You may have a catheter inserted in your body for a few hours after surgery to empty the bladder.
Diet for Living With One Kidney
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 2. 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 1. 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 1. A diet for chronic kidney disease lowers sodium, potassium, protein and fluids 1. 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.
- Once you are ready to be released from the hospital, the doctor will let you know if you need to eat a special diet.
- 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.
Diet for Living With One Kidney
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Chronic Kidney Disease Sample Diet
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- Diet for Chronic Kidney Disease
- Cleveland Clinic. Kidney Failure. Last Reviewed January 10, 2018.
- Potpara TS, Jokic V, Dagres N, et al. Cardiac Arrhythmias in Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease: Implications of Renal Failure for Antiarrhythmic Drug Therapy. Curr Med Chem. 2016;23(19):2070-83. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehy060
- Centers for Disease Control. National Chronic Kidney Disease Fact Sheet. 2017. Published 2017.
- Kazancioğlu R. Risk factors for chronic kidney disease: an update. Kidney Int Suppl (2011). 2013;3(4):368-371. doi:10.1038/kisup.2013.79
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Choosing a Treatment for Kidney Failure. Published January 2018.
- Kim, D., Kim, M, Kim, H. et al. Early Referral to a Nephrologist Improved Patient Survival: Prospective Cohort Study for End-Stage Renal Disease in Korea. PLoS One. 2013. 8(1):e55323.
- Smart, N., and T. Titus. Outcomes of Early versus Late Nephrology Referral in Chronic Kidney Disease: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Medicine. 2011. 124(11):1073-80.e2.
- Smart, N., Dieberg, G., Ladhani, M., and T. Titus. Early Referral to Specialist Nephrology Services for Preventing Progression to End-Stage Kidney Disease. Cochrane Database for Systematic Reviews. 2014. (6):CD007333.
Andrea Lott Haney writes articles and training materials for food industry publications. Having studied foodservice sanitation, nutrition and menu planning at Purdue University, Lott Haney has more than 10 years of experience as a catering and event planner for luxury hotels and currently tours the Midwest as a corporate customer service trainer and consultant.