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Diet and nutrition are very important aspects of everyday care after a lung transplant. Some of the medications that you are taking can cause an increase in your appetite, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high or low potassium, or fluid retention. Now that you have had your transplant and your condition has improved, you will need to pay more attention to food labels.

Some drugs (cyclosporine or Prograf) can increase the potassium level in your blood. Other drugs (such as Lasix) can decrease your potassium level. When potassium is too high or too low, problems with muscle and heart function can develop. Your serum potassium level can mandate a change to your medication and/or diet. If your potassium levels are not within the normal range, you should consult with a nutritionist to adjust your dietary intake of potassium.

In general, fruits and juices high in potassium include: apricots, melons, prune juice, avocados, nectarines, tomato juice, bananas, oranges, V-8 juice, tomatoes and dried fruits. Vegetables high in potassium include leafy greens, potatoes, dried beans, pumpkins, split peas and lentils. Nuts, chocolate, peanut butter, milk and dairy products are also potassium-rich.

Another element you will need to watch is sodium. Sodium can cause you to retain fluid and it contributes to high blood pressure. Your doctor may recommend a low-salt, low-fat, or low-cholesterol diet to reduce your risk of complications from high cholesterol, infections, diabetes and obesity.

The goal of any good diet is to reach and maintain your ideal body weight while getting the nutrients your body needs. You may need a dietitian to help you determine what your diet should be. After your transplant, you will take prednisone, which may increase your appetite in a way you’ve never experienced before. A dietitian can help you strategize how to satisfy your cravings without gaining too much weight. If you need to gain weight, the transplant team will recommend ways to do that, too. Prednisone is often associated with an increase in the level of sugar in your blood, and you may need to reduce the number of concentrated sweets and sugars in your diet. Your physician or dietitian will help you formulate a dietary plan that is suitable for you.

If you are already at your ideal body weight, a good diet (along with exercise) will help you maintain it. Most of the calories you will need daily are to maintain your muscles. Because prednisone can decrease your muscle mass, it is important to remain active to adequately protect your muscles. Getting into a routine of exercising a few days a week will help you gain strength.

Alcohol is contraindicated after transplant because of the medicine you will be taking. Some centers recommend that you should abstain entirely from drinking alcohol. Your medications may not be the same as another patient’s, so follow your team’s advice. If you find you have a problem controlling your drinking, seek help immediately to protect your health.

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