Dean Cruikshank

Healthy eating after a lung transplant

Healthy Eating

Before your transplant, you needed to eat extra food to provide your body with enough energy for breathing. Foods high in sugar and fat, like chips, chocolate bars, pop, and supplements such as Ensure® or Boost®, were good foods for you to eat to keep a healthy weight. Now, after your surgery, your body is not using all that extra energy to breathe so you may not need all the extra calories. Also, two side effects of steroids are an excellent appetite and weight gain. So, if you continue to eat the way you did before your transplant, you may gain weight really quickly!

Gaining weight after your surgery, so that you are in a healthy weight range, is very important to help you to heal and stay healthy. But, gaining too much weight can put you at risk of other health complications, such as diabetes and heart disease. To stay healthy, focus on a balanced diet which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk and milk products and meat and meat alternatives. Talk with your dietitian if you have questions about healthy eating, your healthy weight range and/or your daily nutritional needs.


The chance of developing diabetes after transplant is high for two reasons: people with CF have a higher chance of developing diabetes and, as mentioned above, steroids can cause diabetes. If you already have diabetes, continue to monitor your blood sugars and adjust your insulin doses with the help of your medical team. If you did not have diabetes before transplant, your blood sugar level will be checked as part of your transplant bloodwork. Also, watch for the following symptoms and let your transplant team know if you experience them: 

- Unexplained weight loss

- Feeling more tired

- Feeling very thirsty

- Change in appetite

- Urinating more often

- Blurry vision

- Skin infections

Bone Health

People with cystic fibrosis are at increased risk of bone disease, specifically low bone mineral density. After transplant, bone health continues to be very important. Steroids can thin your bones further and increase your risk for fractures. In order to maintain a healthy bone status it is important to: 

- Maintain a healthy weight

- Take recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D

- Include weight-bearing exercise in your daily activity regimen

Talk to your dietitian to learn about the recommended amounts vitamins and minerals.

Kidney Health

High blood sugars and some of the transplant medications can cause kidney damage. To help prevent this:

- Drink plenty of fluid to help your kidneys remove the remainders of drugs from your body.

- If you have diabetes, one of the best things you can do for your kidneys is to keep your blood sugars under good control 

Food Safety

Since “immunosuppressive” medications make it harder for your immune system to fight infection, it is very important that you do what you can to not get sick. One way is to watch what you eat. This is because certain foods can carry harmful bacteria and if your immune system is reduced, can make you sick. To stay healthy: 

- Always wash your hands before eating or preparing food.

- Refrigerate or freeze foods immediately after a meal. Eat leftover foods within 1 to 2 days.

- Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before eating.

- Most city water supplies in Canada are safe to drink; however, if you are unsure of the safety of the water supply, drink bottled water.

- Wash knives, cutting boards and food preparation surfaces with hot water and soap after contact with raw poultry, meat, and seafood.

- Consider having two cutting boards: one for raw meat and one for other foods.

Risky foods to avoid:

- All raw and undercooked meats

- Sushi, raw seafood and shellfish

- Raw or undercooked eggs and foods containing them, such as, Caesar dressing, cookie dough, other batters

- All unpasteurized milk, cheeses, ciders, juices and honey

- All fresh sprouts

Bowel health

It is important to remember that your bowels still have CF. That means you still need to take your usual amounts of enzymes and watch for signs of a bowel obstruction (blockage). The chance of a bowel obstruction could be higher after transplant because of taking pain medications (which are constipating) and not getting enough fibre and fluids. With drinking adequate fluids, taking your enzymes regularly, and monitoring your bowel movements, you can prevent a bowel obstruction. Talk to your transplant team if your bowel movements change in size, frequency or consistency.