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At The University of Vermont Medical Center, our team helps transplant patients along every step of their recovery as they resume their lives and activities. While transplant surgery does much to improve your life, you will have to make a few important lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible.

Diet Changes After Organ Transplant

You will be able to enjoy a wide variety of foods with very few restrictions. But it is important to remember that some transplant medications have side effects that can impact what type of foods you want to eat. It is also very common for transplant patients to experience increased appetites.

Here are some tips to help you avoid unnecessary weight gain:

  • Eat three well-balanced meals daily, limit snacks between meals
  • If you do snack, choose low-fat foods like unbuttered popcorn, unsalted pretzels, low-salt crackers, fresh fruit or yogurt
  • Use unsaturated fats when cooking such as olive, peanut, or canola oils
  • Limit your intake of chocolate, cheeses and egg yolks to help keep your cholesterol level within a healthy range
  • Avoid foods with high sodium content because some of your medications may help the body to retain sodium
  • Limit desserts, candies and sodas because medications may make your body more sensitive to sugar

Exercise After Transplant Surgery

Exercising on a regular basis after your surgery is important for your health. After your surgery, you will need to take things slowly and not begin any exercise plan until your doctor says it's okay.

Here are some tips for the first three months:

  • Start with low-impact exercise such as walking or biking short distances each day
  • Gradually build up the time you spend being active to keep your weight down and your bones and muscles strong
  • Pace yourself and rest when you are tired
  • Do not lift anything more than 10-15 pounds
  • As you recover fully, you should plan to exercise 3-4 times/week for 30-40 minutes of moderate intensity (fairly light to somewhat hard exercise).

Sex After Transplant Surgery

Many transplant patients enjoy fulfilling relationships after their surgery and sexual relations remain an important part of their life.

  • You may begin to have sexual relations when you feel up to it.
  • Avoid any position that causes you pain or puts a strain on your incision.
  • If you are female and of childbearing age, it is important to use reliable contraception. Most patients wait at least one year before considering pregnancy as pregnancy puts a strain on your health. Not all transplant medications are safe for pregnant women.

Preparing for and having a transplant has undoubtedly brought changes into your life. Medication, diet, stress and sleep all have significant effects on our sexuality and how we feel about our bodies and ourselves. It can be reassuring to remember that intimacy need not only be equated with sexual performance. Many have found there are countless ways to show and experience intimacy other than performing sexually.

Open communication, patience and willingness to compromise with your partner are essential. Be sure to speak with your transplant doctor, nurse or social worker if you have questions or concerns about intimacy.