Most liver transplant patients have to avoid certain foods after their surgery. Your dietary restrictions after liver transplant will depend to some extent on what complications, if any, you have after the surgery. Immediately following transplant, your diet may be more restricted than it might be after recovery from the surgery. Many of the dietary restrictions relate not to the surgery itself but to the immunosuppressive medications you take to prevent rejection of your new organ.
A substance in grapefruit interferes with the enzyme CYP3A4, which breaks down medications. Grapefruit can interact with several anti-rejection medications, including tacrolimus and cyclosporine. CYP3A4 breaks down the drug so you absorb less of it. When you consume grapefruit or fruits such as Seville oranges, you may absorb a larger than normal dose of your anti-rejection drug, resulting in an overdose. For this reason, many transplant patients must avoid products containing grapefruit altogether.
Watching Carbohydrate Intake
In the first few weeks after transplant, most patients take corticosteroids along with other drugs to suppress the immune system. In high doses, corticosteroids raise your blood sugar. After liver transplant, as many as 31 percent of patients may develop diabetes, according to a French study reported in the June 2003 issue of “Transplant Proceedings.” Restricting your simple sugar intake will not only allow you to fill up on the more healthy choices you need to rebuild new tissues, such as lean protein, but will also help keep your blood glucose low.
- Raw seafood like clams, oysters, sushi and ceviche
- Raw, rare or undercooked meat, poultry and fish
- Raw or undercooked eggs
- Foods containing raw eggs like cookie dough or homemade eggnog
- Unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized cheese
- Unpasteurized cider
- Bean and alfalfa sprouts
- Be clean. Always wash your hands with hot soapy water before beginning any food preparation. Keep the food preparation area and all utensils used during preparation clean. Replace sponges regularly. Wash dishcloths often. Consider using disposable paper towels. Wash all fruits and vegetables carefully.
- Keep things separated. Protect yourself from cross contamination. Cross contamination can occur in your grocery cart when you place a package of meat that is leaking juices on top of other foods. It can also occur in the refrigerator if the juice from thawed meat drips onto other foods. Purchase multiple cutting boards and use one just for meat, another just for vegetables and one for bread. Clean the cutting boards thoroughly after every use. Any dish that has held uncooked food should be washed before using it for the cooked product.
- Cook as directed. Always cook foods to the recommended temperatures. A food thermometer helps insure you meet this goal. Suggested temperatures:
- Chill. When food shopping, especially during hot weather, return home promptly and refrigerate perishables. Refrigerate leftovers quickly after a meal. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter. You may want to avoid salad bars and buffets when eating out as those foods may be held at room temperature for an extended length of time.
- Always check the label of perishable foods for the “Sell-By” date. Do not use foods after the date listed.