A liver transplant is a life-changing procedure for patients who have a diseased or damaged liver.
It is often recommended for people who suffer from significant complications due to end-stage liver diseases such as biliary atresia, autoimmune or viral hepatitis, metabolic diseases, liver cancers, hepatic necrosis, or cirrhosis.
Over the years, the techniques and tools used to carry out a liver transplant as well as the medications that support patient recovery have gone through significant developments, thereby improving the long-term success of the said procedure. In fact, there are recipients who go on to live for more than 3 decades after undergoing liver transplantation.
Still, it’s a must for patients who have undergone a liver transplant to adopt healthy practices to ensure that their new organs will heal and function well. Here are the lifestyle changes that they should adopt:
Quit Smoking and Drinking
Cirrhosis, one of the most common causes of chronic liver failure, is often brought about by excessive alcohol use. Drinking alcohol again increases the chances that a patient will continue to experience liver issues, which is why it’s best to avoid drinking entirely after a liver transplant. Smoking is another activity that patients should steer clear of, as this habit has proven negative impacts on one’s health and can even increase a person’s risk for strokes, heart diseases, respiratory issues, and even some cancers.
Make an Effort to Reduce the Risk of Infections
A patient who has undergone a liver transplant will need to take immunosuppressants to prevent their body from rejecting the organ. This necessary step, however, has drawbacks, as immunocompromised people have a higher risk for infection and illness. To control one’s risk for infections, those who have undergone organ transplants must avoid exposure to people who have infectious diseases, practice proper handwashing techniques, avoid live vaccinations, and remember safe handling techniques when interacting with pets. It’s also recommended to take the necessary antibiotics prior to dental and invasive procedures and to consult medical professionals at the first sign of infection or illness.
Commit to Food Safety and Limit Exposure to Toxins
People who are taking immunosuppressants are also more sensitive to contaminated food, water, and toxic substances. To prevent health complications, people who have gone through transplants are advised not to drink water from questionable sources. They must also avoid decomposing vegetation and produce, steer clear of compost and construction piles, and wear gloves when working in gardens. If they have pets, they should have someone take care of cleaning the pet’s litter as well. These objects and places likely harbour microorganisms that their immunocompromised bodies might not be able to fend off as easily compared to someone whose immune system is functioning normally.
Eat Nutritious and Balanced Meals
A big part of caring for one’s health and well-being is subscribing to a nutritious and well-balanced diet. It’s a good idea to limit one’s intake of sugar, fats, and salt, and try to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into one’s daily meals. A patient’s transplant team can give them more detailed information on the kinds of food that they should eat to maintain their health and ensure that their new liver will be able to function well.
Make It a Point to Exercise
Exercising regularly is also key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle after undergoing a liver transplant. A few weeks after the procedure, a patient should be making an effort to walk and move about if it’s not detrimental to their health and well-being. As they continue to recover, they can slowly incorporate exercise into their daily schedule. Walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming are popular options and highly recommended by doctors, but high-contact sports like mixed martial arts are to be avoided because they can increase one’s risk of damaging the transplanted organ.
Use Sun Protection Regularly
Unfortunately, patients who have undergone transplantation procedures can be prone to certain kinds of cancer, particularly skin cancer. It’s a smart idea to adopt a pre-emptive approach to this by using sunscreen and other forms of sun protection regularly. When heading out, be sure to slather on lotion that can offer protection against the sun’s rays. It’s also practical to cover as much skin as possible if a patient is expecting to spend a good portion of their time outdoors under the heat of the sun.
A donated liver can come from a living donor who wants to give a portion of their organ to a family member, friend, or even a stranger. More often than not, though, the organ comes from a deceased-liver donor. Currently, the number of people who need the procedure greatly exceeds the number of deceased-donor livers. As such, patients who qualify for liver transplants often wait a long time to undergo the procedure.