The first year after receiving a kidney transplant is full of changes. As you adjust to medication routines and a life free of dialysis, there are many new experiences to face. One of those is navigating the holiday season with newfound freedom and health. Yet even though you have a new lease on life with your kidney transplant, you will still need to use caution as you enter the holiday season and its many potential health pitfalls. Here are some strategies to help.
Be Considerate of Germs
As a transplant patient, you must remain vigilant about germs. Your immune system is now compromised, and as a result, you need to use caution to avoid unnecessary exposure to illness. Does this mean you can’t enjoy holiday parties and family events? No, but it does mean you should do so carefully.
When you are going to visit family, ask them if anyone has been recently ill. Practice good hand-washing, and make sure you keep up with all of your medications. Consider forgoing handshakes and hugs if someone has been ill recently or you suspect they are not practicing good hand hygiene.
Pay Attention to Nutrition
One of the biggest risks of the holiday season comes not from germs, but rather from the food on your plate. This is the season when people are willing to over-indulge in treats and less-than-healthy food options. As a kidney transplant patient, you do need to be mindful of what you are eating. Healthy choices will support your new kidneys, and allowing yourself to eat too much puts you at risk for obesity, which can put unnecessary strain on your kidneys.
Here are some strategies that will help you enjoy holiday foods without unnecessary risk:
- Choose small servings of those items you truly love
- Pass on items you don’t care for.
- Keep to a regular eating schedule, as skipping meals will cause you to eat more.
- Keep holiday goodies out of sight, so they are not constantly on your mind.
- Choose a healthy snack before holiday events so you do not eat more than you should of the less healthy options.
In addition to these tips, remember that sodium and potassium can be hard on your body as a transplant patient. If you eat too much sodium, you may retain fluids. If you eat too much potassium, you could strain your heart. Watch for and put limits on foods with these ingredients.
Finally, make sure you are drinking the right amount of water. While it is allowable to have other beverages, too, don’t neglect water, which is essential to your health.
It is unreasonable to think you won’t have some treats this holiday season, but don’t go overboard. Your goal is to come out from the holidays without unnecessary medical intervention, so go into these events with a plan for your health.
Learn More about the Paired Donation Program
If you are not a kidney transplant recipient but are on the waiting list to become one, the kidney exchange program through the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation could help. Reach out to your transplant team to learn more about this program, and see how you can find a kidney match with a living donor through this innovative software program. Perhaps this holiday season could be the season when you receive your life-giving transplant.