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No one would ever describe the odor of urine as “pleasant,” but there are times when the aroma might be unusually offensive. Maybe you just ate a lot of asparagus for dinner last night, or maybe it’s a symptom of an underlying health concern. How can you tell the difference? We’ve compiled a list of common reasons why your pee might smell funny to help you decide whether you should just drink more water or schedule an appointment with your doctor.
You may notice that your pee smells different the day after you’ve eaten asparagus. This is a harmless side effect of the breakdown of asparagusic acid, as sulfur-containing metabolites are released and excreted. Onions, garlic, curry, salmon, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli can also temporarily change the odor of urine. If it doesn’t bother you, you probably have a genetic variation called asparagus anosmia that protects you from the stinky smells of metabolites.1
Urination is a waste-removal process, and that waste includes ammonia. When you haven’t been drinking a lot of water, your pee won’t be as diluted and the ammonia will smell more potent. Dehydration isn’t a health concern per se, but chronic dehydration can lead to kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Fill up your water bottle ASAP!
Speaking of urinary tract infections, these occur when bacteria builds up in the urinary tract and produces a foul odor. Other symptoms of UTIs include cloudy urine, more frequent urination, fever, and pain while peeing. They’re easily treated with antibiotics, but you’ll need to check in with your doctor to get a prescription.
Also a cause of painful urination, kidney stones form when compounds in urine crystallize in the kidneys. They may include sulfur-containing compounds like cystine and can cause buildups of salt and ammonia by slowing the flow of urine. You may also experience back or side pain, fever, vomiting, and bloody pee. This is another condition you’ll want to see your doctor for.
High blood sugar, left untreated, will cause a buildup of ketones. These chemicals can make your pee smell oddly sweet or fruity. You’ll also likely experience additional symptoms like vomiting, shortness of breath, and confusion. Contact your doctor immediately if you have these signs of ketonuria.
Did you know there’s a medical condition called Maple Syrup Urine Disease? (We didn’t either, don’t feel bad.) MSUD, tyrosinemia, and trimethylaminuria are all genetic conditions that prevent the breakdown of certain amino acids, resulting in their excretion through the urinary tract. MSUD and trimethylaminuria have no cure, but are harmless beyond their potential to cause embarrassment. Avoiding foods that contain compounds like choline and lecithin can help reduce odors, and other treatments like intravenous amino acid administration can ensure proper nourishment in infants. Tyrosinemia, which can cause liver disease or failure, can be treated with a low-protein diet and the administration of the drug Nitisinone.2
Taking too many vitamins might not cause any harm, but your body will flush out excess water-soluble vitamins through your urinary tract. Overdoing the vitamin B1 can result in a fishy odor, and too much B2 or B12 may turn your pee a shade of yellow so bright it looks greenish. Some medications – including, funny enough, antibiotics used to treat UTIs and some medicines for diabetes – can also amplify the aroma of urine in unpleasant ways. Ask your doctor’s advice to create a vitamin supplementation routine that works for you without upsetting your body chemistry, and consult a medical professional if the smelly side effects of your medication are bothering you.
Yep, just waiting a long time to go can strengthen the stench. If it’s not a common occurrence, it shouldn’t be a big deal, but don’t make a habit of putting yourself in a position where a restroom isn’t easily accessible. Waiting too long to empty your bladder can put you at greater risk of developing a UTI.
While unpleasant and occasionally awkward, smelly pee happens to all of us at some point in our lives. Most of the time it’s not a sign of a deeper issue, as long as it’s not accompanied by pain, blood, fever, or other concerning side effects. If the smell persists and you don’t know why, talk to your doctor about the foods you’re eating and the supplements and medications you’re taking. And for daily, natural support of your urinary tract health, kidney and liver function, and comfortable waste elimination, check out our Kidney + Urinary Health supplements!
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.