Fishy business: Mum loses six stone thanks to diet of fruit and veg that stopped her smelling of rotten fish
The mum of four, 34, from York has lost a massive six stone after she was forced to live on a diet of just fruit and vegetables - to stop her smelling like rotting fish.
Claire, who is mum to Danielle, 17, Connor, 13, Ruby, six, and two-year-old Harrison has a rare metabolic disorder called Trimethylaminuria (TMAU), also known as fish odour syndrome, where the body can't break down trimethylamine, which is found in certain foods.
This causes the chemical to build up before it is released in sweat, urine, and breath, giving off a strong fishy odour.
Claire was diagnosed two years ago but her stinky smell has been following her around since she was in her early twenties.
But now, thanks to living off a diet of just fruit and vegetables, Claire has been able to keep her fishy odour under control - and lose weight as a bonus.
"You're supposed to have other things in small amounts but they still make me stink, so I only eat fruit and vegetables. It's made me lose six stone," says Claire.
The diet does get me down but I have got to stick to it. I wouldn't be able to go out if I didn't. I'd be too embarrassed. People don't look at me or comment as much now. I'm starting to live again.
Before her strict diet controlled her condition, Claire, who can't smell her odour, was having up to 10 showers a day after family and friends started commenting on her fishy whiff:
"One day, I was cleaning my teeth just before I was about to go out and my sister told me I should do it at least three times because I stank. I brushed it off. I thought it was a typical sister thing.
"More people started commenting on it. It really started getting to me. That's when I started to become really obsessive with cleaning."
When she went to see her doctor, they did various tests, which all came back negative, and Claire's doctor concluded she suffered from body odour and halitosis.
I was in and out of my GPs every month. I think they thought I was a hypochondriac. I thought it was coming from my teeth so I lied to my dentist and said I was in pain so he removed some of them.
"I was brushing my teeth 20 times a day. I was brushing so hard my gums were receding."
Around the same time, Claire started having panic attacks and for a year, she only left the house when she had to go to work. Claire even contemplated suicide because of it and she was put on anti-depressants as well as having counselling.
However, after watching a programme about someone with fish odour syndrome, Claire was finally diagnosed with the disorder.
"I was sick of people looking at me. People would shout at me to brush my teeth. About three years ago, I was coming out of a toilet while out in town and a woman threw a packet of chewing gum at me," explains Claire.
"People said I smelled of poo, it's not nice being told that. I was working nights in a residential home and when I did hand over, the rest of the staff would move to the other end of the room.
"I knew they were thinking: 'she doesn't wash.' They used to laugh behind my back.
As soon as I saw it on the television, I thought I bet I have got that. By then, my doctor was sick of me and said I wouldn't because it's so rare. She agreed to do a test though and when the result came back positive she apologised. It was a real relief to get a diagnosis. I was so happy.
A dietician has put Claire on a strict diet and warned her to cut out any foods that make her disorder worse. Most foods cause her to smell, including some fruit and vegetables, so Claire has to limit her diet to strawberries, pears, carrots, turnips, potatoes and salad.
She can eat honey and rice in small amounts as well as bread, but only if it is freshly baked.
"Sometimes I treat myself to a takeaway on a Friday night and just lock myself away all weekend," says Claire, who says her four children have helped her stay strong throughout the years she suffered: ""If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here."
Dr Robin Lachmann, a consultant in Metabolic Medicine at University College Hospital in London, said: "Trimethylaminuria is caused by an inability to break down trimethylamine in the liver.
"There is an inherited form of the condition called Primary Trimethylaminuria. It's caused by a faulty gene but that is extremely rare.
"In most patients this gene is normal and we think that trimethylamine builds up due either to the fact that the enzyme has stopped working properly, which might be to do with hormone levels, or that the bacteria in their gut are producing too much trimethylamine for the enzyme to cope with.
"There's no cure but treatment aims to reduce trimethylamine levels in the body and control the symptoms."
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