Having a healthy lifestyle after a kidney transplant goes a long way to minimise the risk of complications. Therefore, it’s recommended that you:

  • Stop smoking if you smoke- If you smoke, it’s strongly recommended that you stop as soon as possible because smoking can reduce the life of your new kidney and can increase your risk of developing some types of cancer.
  • Eat a healthy diet – Most people are able to enjoy a much more varied diet after a kidney transplant, although you may be advised to avoid some foods after the operation until the kidney is working properly.

During the early stages after a transplant, while you’re on higher doses of immunosuppressant medication, you should avoid eating foods that carry a high risk of food poisoning, including:

  • Unpasteurised cheese, milk or yoghurt
  • Foods containing raw eggs (such as mayonnaise)
  • Undercooked or raw meats, fish and shellfish

Once your kidney is working properly and the best immunosuppressant dose for you has been identified, you’ll usually be advised to follow a generally healthy diet, as this can reduce your risk of complications such as diabetes. Avoid food that contains high levels of salt, as salt can cause high blood pressure, which can be dangerous for people with a kidney transplant.

  • Exercise to maintain & lose weight if you are overweight or obese- Once you’ve started to recover from the effects of surgery, you should try to do regular physical activity. Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity exercise every week. This includes any activity that increases your heart and breathing rate – it may make you sweat, but are still able to hold a normal conversation. Examples include:
  • Fast walking
  • Riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
  • Swimming
  • Tennis

Choose physical activities that you enjoy, as you’re more likely to continue doing them. It’s unrealistic to meet these exercise targets immediately if you have not exercised much in the past. You should aim to start gradually and then build on it. If you’re overweight or obese, you should try to achieve a healthy weight. This can be safely done through a combination of eating a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise. Aim for a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 25.

  • Take steps to reduce your risk of developing infections- If you have a kidney transplant, you’ll usually need to take immunosuppressant medications for the rest of your life to prevent your body’s immune system from attacking the new kidney.

Widely used immunosuppressants include Tacrolimus, Cyclosporine, Azathioprine, Mycophenolate, Prednisolone and Everolimus.

However, taking immunosuppressive medications on a long-term basis will weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to infections, so you’ll need to take extra precautions against infection:

  • Avoid contact with people you know currently have infections, such as chickenpox or flu.
  • Practise good personal hygiene – wash your hands regularly with soap and hot water, particularly after going to the toilet and before preparing food and eating meals.
  • If you cut or graze your skin, clean the area thoroughly with warm water, dry it, then cover it with a sterile dressing.

Written By: Dr. Prashant Rajput


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