A MOTHER-OF-TWO whose life was devastated by inflammatory bowel disease has praised a new app that enables healthy people to experience life with the illness.

Louise Hodge had a three-week-old daughter and was finalising plans for her wedding to husband, Philip, when the symptoms first struck in 2016.

By the time she was on her honeymoon, she was increasingly alarmed by the large amounts of blood in her stools.

Mrs Hodge, from Cumbernauld in Lanarkshire, said: "I became anaemic. I was back and forth to the doctor. At first we thought it was just irritable bowel syndrome, but eventually they sent me to hospital and I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in May 2018.

"It had a huge impact on my life, especially with children. I could barely do anything. My mum and my husband basically became my carer. I kept falling on the stairs because I was so weak. I was too weak to hold my kids.

"In the past year I've put on five stone from the steroid medication and I've lost big clumps of hair as well."

At times Mrs Hughes is too fatigued by the condition to walk 50 metres and carries a wheelchair for trips to the park with her children, now aged three and 18 months.

She has to carry incontinence pads everywhere and lives in dread of an IBD attack.

"The pain is agonising," she said. "The best way I can describe it is that it's like having contractions. I was doubled over in pain. For a while I couldn't drive at all because you don't know when the cramps are going to happen.

"I was going to the toilet around 30 times a day so you have to plan everything. When I had my newborn I was breastfeeding and, because she had really bad reflux, I couldn't just lie her back down in her cot to run to the toilet in case she choked.

"I'd either have to soil myself or take her to the toilet with me, so there were nights when I'd be up at 2am sitting on the toilet for hours with my baby, it was absolutely horrendous."

Mrs Hodge, 37, is among a growing number of people in Scotland suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn's or colitis.

Both are autoimmune disorders where the body attacks its own digestive tract or colon, but the exact cause remains unclear.

Symptoms include extreme fatigue, abdominal bloating and pain, weight loss, severe and sudden diarrhoea, dehydration and bloody stools.

A study by Edinburgh University in August found that one in 125 Scots suffer some form of IBD, twice previous estimates.

Prevalence is expected to rise even further, to one in 98 Scots within the decade.

Now an app, jointly created by charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK and Japanese pharmaceutical giant, Takeda, has launched to simulate a day in the life of someone living with IBD.

The 'In My Shoes' app has been trialled by doctors, specialist nurses and dieticians in the gastroenterology department at Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Users are sent notifications over a 24-hour period mimicking common scenarios for sufferers, such as a warning that they must reach a toilet within one minute.

Dr John Paul Seenan, consultant gastroenterologist, said: "It helped us appreciate how disruptive this can be to your life, work, diet and sleep. The impact of having such an urgency to need to use the toilet particularly ‘hit home’."

Mrs Hodge's mother, Shirley Bigg, said the app opened her eyes to her daughter's ordeal.

"It would wake you up at two in the morning with a notification saying you need to go to the toilet, and I'd think 'oh, I can't be bothered'," said Mrs Bigg. "But Louise can't shut that off.

"It's not just the physical effects, it's the whole mental and emotional sides because there would be times she was just balling her eyes out. It's like a tsunami hit her life.

"I'd be out with Louise and suddenly this total fear and panic would come on her face, this urgency to find a toilet. Now I get why Louise would feel anxious about going out, in case she bumped into anyone.

"As the app progressed through the day you had different scenarios like you'd be arranging to meet a friend for a catch up but because you'd been back and forth to the toilet all day and night your energy levels are depleted and your mood is really down - so do you meet you friend, or do you cancel so that you can recharge your batteries?"

Mrs Hodge, a civil servant, had to give up commuting by bus to Glasgow because there were no toilets for the journey.

She now works from her home in Cumbernauld, but said work colleagues have also tried the app.

"They really had an insight into how debilitating it is," she said. "A lot of people think it's just like having an upset tummy, but they all came back to me saying 'now we get it'."

Sarah Sleet, CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: "The In My Shoes App sparks conversations that soon lead to practical things we can all do to help. Even small gestures can go a long way, if you feel you are no longer alone when facing these conditions.”