Staying healthy after a kidney transplant

Healthy eating, regular exercise and not smoking will help with your recovery and give your kidney the best chance of working long-term

Key points

  • Your lifestyle can affect the long-term success of your kidney transplant
  • Adapting a healthy lifestyle is very important
  • This means eating the right foods, keeping active and stopping smoking for good
  • Your transplant team will talk to you about the best ways to achieve this

Eat and drink the right things

After your transplant, it’s important to eat a nutritious, balanced diet to help encourage your transplant to work well. Aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and plenty of wholegrain foods that are high in fibre. Avoid too much sugar, saturated fats and salt. A low sugar diet is particularly important for managing diabetes.

Most people are able to drink alcohol in moderation after a kidney transplant

You will be given information on your diet and daily fluid allowance from your transplant team. It’s very important to follow this advice.

Take regular exercise

Keeping active is very important after a transplant. In the first few weeks, you should try to walk a little every day to prevent blood clots. As you recover, you can do more. If your recovery is going well, after 6-8 weeks, you will usually be encouraged to start moderate exercise.

This could be walking, jogging, swimming or cycling. Most sports and activities are possible but you should avoid heavy contact sports (rugby, martial arts, boxing) as these risk damaging your transplanted kidney.

Aim for a healthy weight

Weight gain is common after a kidney transplant, especially in the first year. This is often a side effect of the medications, but it can also be because your diet is less restrictive. Or because you have a better appetite due to improving health. However, too much weight gain places a strain on your heart and blood vessels so it’s important to eat healthily and stay active as much as possible.

Being a healthier weight can help to lower your chances of having problems with your recovery. You should lose weight by increasing the amount of exercise you do and taking extra care with your diet. Speak to your transplant team for more advice on losing weight.

Give up smoking

If you smoke, it’s time to stop. Ideally, you should quit before your transplant. Smoking increases the risk of strokes, heart and lung problems, and hernias in transplant patients. Giving up cigarettes will help prevent problems during the transplant surgery and maintain your health after your transplant. Speak to your transplant team for help on quitting smoking.

Go to NHS stop smoking services 

Get support from your transplant team

They can help you with diet plans, activity schedules and giving up smoking.

More information

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