FIGHTING THE IBD FIGHT: WITH LOïS MILLS
Interview by Dr Sunni
Loïs Mills is a Brand Manager from East London and runs the platform GUT INSTINCT that raises awareness for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. She is a powerhouse personality and is known for her authentic and down to earth approach on living with IBD. This article uncovers aspects of her life with the disease.
Dr Sunni: Loïs, tell us all about your journey and fight with IBD, and what you have learnt along the way?
Loïs: I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at the end of 2015 after originally being referred to Hospital for a Bowel Cancer test. Even getting to this appointment took many months of back and forth blood tests and food diaries before I was sent for further testing. Luckily I did not have Bowel Cancer, and this opened the door to my referral for a colonoscopy and thus finally a diagnosis of Crohn's Disease.
Prior to my diagnosis, I had been taking Asacol to try and reduce my inflammatory symptoms, but a couple of months following my diagnosis I was put onto Prednisolone (steroids). It was Christmas Eve when I was given these and I remember reading all the side effects and immediately panicking about what kind of Christmas I would have.
The following Christmas, I decided to start GUT INSTINCT, a platform dedicated to talking about Inflammatory Bowel Disease. At the time, there was a minuscule presence on the internet and social media around IBD and especially nothing that I could relate to. After much internal deliberation with myself, I knew that I wanted to use my voice and put myself out there to spread awareness and shine light on the condition I was now living with. I suppose it was 50% content for other people, 50% therapy for myself.
Since that time, I've received 5,000 followers on my YouTube channel, been prescribed several courses of Prednisolone, Budesonide and Azathioprine, appeared on BBC Radio 1Xtra and 5Live shows, and decided to embark on a medication-free journey in 2017. In the 5 years that I have had IBD, I have continuously surprised myself with how brave I can be, even when facing huge challenges, and how independent I have become through this process.
My fight can be seen as bit of a love/hate relationship. Sometimes I feel in total control of my IBD and forget that it's even a thing that I live with; whereas other times it feels like my Crohn's totally takes centre stage. Although there are some downsides and negatives to living with Crohn's Disease, on the whole I feel that it has educated me on so many different things in ways that I may never have been exposed to, and so for that I am grateful. It has also taught me never to take my health or my body for granted.
Dr Sunni: What would you tell your younger self, knowing what you know now, about IBD?
Loïs: That it's not embarrassing to talk about your bowel habits and to remember that you know your body better than anyone else. For so long I withheld from even seeing a GP about my symptoms because I didn't understand what it could be and didn't want to go to someone to talk about my toilet troubles. I wish I had felt confident enough to go earlier on, but I am still so proud of myself for how far I have come on the journey.
Dr Sunni: What inspires you to keep fighting daily?
Loïs: The community; it is full of inspirational people. There is so much power in our voices and actions.
Dr Sunni: How do you deal with food and gut health?
Loïs: When I decided to explore a medication free approach to my IBD, this went hand in hand with reviewing both my diet and lifestyle choices. I made the decision to go almost totally plant based (though I would never pretend I am 100%, because let's face it, croissants are delicious, sorry) and it has been one of the best choices I have made in terms of managing my symptoms and developing a greater appreciation for gut health. I am now obsessed with gut health and learning about foods that have a positive benefit on the gut.
Dr Sunni: What would you advise others with IBD?
Loïs: Strength comes in all sorts of forms, from saying no to social plans when you're feeling fatigued to asking for help when you're struggling mentally. Strength is also finding strength in other people. IBS and IBD can be an on-going battle that feels like a bit of a rollercoaster at times, which can be challenging for anyone to deal with. Just remember that you are not alone, and that there are many other people experiencing the same or similar, so please reach out if you need or want to.
- Loïs Mills