A mother with an extremely rare condition that makes her smell like fish has finally found relief after years of being humiliated by the odor.
Teacher Connie Christy, 43, has trimethylaminuria, a genetic disorder which causes sufferers to emit a pungent scent that affects the breath, sweat and urine.
Growing up, classmates called her "Connie the Tuna" but she had no idea she had the condition until the age of 19, when her parents sat her down and broke the news.
Christy, a mother of two, said she will "reek to high heaven" within 30 minutes of eating certain foods ‒ including fish and eggs ‒ because her body is unable to break them down.
She cannot detect the smell herself so must rely on her husband Shane, 44, sons Drake and Jace, 19 and 16 respectively, or friends to let her know if they notice it.
Despite showering daily, brushing her teeth and spraying perfume, Christy was unable to mask the odor until she started taking probiotic tablets three years ago.
"I know I'm a very hygienic person and I know it is not because of not being that way," Christy, of Sheridan, Indiana, said. "I do take care of myself but it's something that I can't control. It's always in the back of my mind; I'm wondering whether I smell."
"I have always been a social person but it has prevented me from doing certain things," she said. "My husband and I were taking ballroom dance classes and I quit doing that because once in a while my husband would say, 'Oh, you're starting to smell.'"
"Quite often the instructor would dance with me and show me the moves and it made me sick to the stomach that I might smell," she said. "I was so fearful I just quit. When it happened at work, my friend texted me and said, 'Hey, so and so said she smelt fish and I just wanted to let you know.'"
"I just wept," Christy said. "I didn't want people to sit and wonder, 'Does she take showers?' I do. I'm very clean. When my husband tells me, I will take a shower right away and try to wash it away but it doesn't always work."
"I have tried charcoal wash and I have tried zinc and I would always use body spray or fragrance to try and cover it up, but there is no covering it up," she said. "It makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed. Who wants to smell like that?"
Christy was diagnosed with trimethylaminuria after her parents noticed certain foods caused her to emit an unpleasant body odor when she was a child.
The condition is caused by a mutation in the FM03 gene, which helps break down trimethylamine. Without it, the compound builds up, causing a fishlike odor.
Christy's parents spoke with a nurse, who explained the condition to them, and when she turned 19 they sat her down and broke the news.
"I can't smell it on myself so it was a shock to me," Christy said. "All through high school and middle school, how many times did I actually smell like fish and not know it? Through elementary I don't remember kids being mean, but my mom does remember me being called names like 'Connie the Tuna.'"
"When I was older no one really said anything, but it kind of makes sense, given how people acted toward me, like backing away or avoidance," she said. "I was just thinking bad breath or something like that, so it was a blow. I did struggle and was in tears at times, especially when there was intimacy."
"I met my husband around that time and when we were dating, every once in a while he would say, 'Did you shower today?' and it was me smelling like fish," Christy said. "He brought it up a couple of times. We were together for six months to a year and I was nervous about telling him."
For decades the smell would occur a few times a month, but when Christy hit her late 30s it became more frequent and she began desperately to seek treatment.
She tried one probiotic drink for two weeks but rather than help, the product made her smell strongly for a week and when people commented on it she was left in tears.
It wasn't until she discovered probiotic digestion aids Plexus ProBio5 and Biocleanse that her symptoms subsided.
She's been taking three tablets per day for three years and has only smelled like fish three times since then.
"Now I can eat pretty much anything and the test was crab legs," Christy said. "I love crab legs and when we used to eat them my husband says I reeked — I would smell to high heaven in 30 minutes. It's a fill-up-the-kitchen smell."
"It comes through my breath," she said. "Even if I eat broccoli my breath will still smell of fish. After about four months of these products I ate crab legs and after 15 or 20 minutes I asked my husband if I smelled and he said no."
"Later my son buried his nose in my neck and said 'Mom, I don't smell anything.' I cried," she said. "It's not a cure and if I stopped taking them I would still smell of fish but it has changed everything."
"I have so much more confidence to talk to people now," she said. "I have more confidence to share my story."
"Connie is not a dirty person but it would be a really fishy smell," Shane, a property developer, said. "It would smell like fish — like if you were catching fish and you pulled one out of the water. It's a strong, distinct smell."
"It was hard to see her dealing with it because she was never aware of when it was happening," he said. "It was never something that bothered me but I knew it made her feel bad. She's so much happier now."