A British woman has spent 14 years smelling of fish and rotten eggs, owing to a rare metabolic disorder.

Ellie James, 44, from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, is just one of a handful of people in the UK to be diagnosed with Trimethylaminuria (TMAU).

Also known as fish-odour syndrome, it has had a ­devastating impact on people's life.

"At first I didn't ­understand what was wrong. I'd always had impeccable hygiene," James told the Mirror. "The smell was a complete mystery. I wondered if my cat had brought in a mouse and left it to rot."

Her body, unable to cope with certain foods such as meat, dairy, coffee and fish, releases ­trimethylamine, which creates a rather unpleseant odour.

Even when she avoids those foods there are days she is unable to stop the smell.

Due to her condition, James is often bullied in the street and on public transport.

Even when she sought help from her GP, the woman was lectured about her personal hygiene.

"I would come home from work every night and cry. Soon people were showering me with gifts of perfume. At Christmas I'd get soap – it was completely humiliating.

"Once a driver actually installed an air freshener on the bus I use and a passenger said it was my fault. It was soul-destroying," she continued. "It was a real struggle getting out of bed in the morning."

After several years of research James came across an online forum for people with TMAU in 2007.

She then consulted an ­endocrinologist – an expert on hormones – who put her on antibiotics and suggested a diet plan.

"Although it was hard to swallow I felt relief as I'd finally found the answers I'd been looking for," she said.

"I began to wash with a special pH-balanced soap after I found out washing excessively with normal soap made the smell even worse.

"There is no cure, but making these changes helps."

Women are more likely to develop the condition than men, possibly because female sex hormones aggravate the symptoms.

The disease can trigger depression and other psychological problems.

"I hope my story will help educate those who point fingers and encourage other sufferers to find the strength to get help," James concluded.