Often, smelly urine is the result of something you ate or mild dehydration. In some instances, though, this unpleasant symptom can indicate a significant health condition. While there is no need to panic if your pee smells a bit strange, urination can tell more about your health than you might think.
Smelly urine can be caused by something that you ate. Often, this type of smell is described as "asparagus pee," because this stalk vegetable is one of the best known "smelly pee" foods. Asparagus is not the only culprit, however; onions, brussels sprouts, garlic, salmon, curry, spices, and even some types of coffee can have a similar effect. Diets high in salt can cause more concentrated urine, which also leads to smellier pee.
Drinking too little water is the number one reason urine starts to smell. This event also makes your urine darker in color. The good news: if you notice dark, smelly pee, it could be that all you have to do is drink more water. Of course, it is best to pay attention to other symptoms of dehydration, such as headaches, fatigue, or muscle stiffness, and try to catch this issue as early as possible, or, better still, drink enough water each day to prevent it in the first place.
Sugar is ok when consumed in moderation, but eating too much can throw blood sugar levels out of whack and even lead to type 2 diabetes (though many other factors can lead to this disease as well). Frequent urination is one of the first signs of pre-diabetes and diabetes. Because urine contains excess sugar, the waste product can develop a fruity smell when blood sugar rises too high. This scent can indicate the need to check your blood sugar levels.
Douching is not a common practice in the U.S. these days. The theory that the practice cleans the vagina has been proven false, and it actually can ruin the microbiome balance of the genitals, leading to worse smells. Douching on a regular basis may disrupt the vaginal pH balance and lead to smelly urine. If persistent smells prompt you to consider this practice, see a doctor instead to get to the root of the problem.
Urinary tract infections are a common cause of smelly urine for women, also causing the urine to appear cloudy or bloody. If you develop a UTI, you will likely notice your urine has a strong ammonia smell, often described as foul or slightly sweet. This is a result of the bacteria that causes the infection. As the UTI progresses, a burning sensation may accompany urination; if this symptom does not pass quickly, it is another clear sign to see a doctor.
Your genetic makeup may be causing your smelly urine. Certain genetic disorders can cause an abnormal smell of the urine, including trimethylaminuria, a metabolic condition that causes foul body odor regardless of hygiene. The urine of people with this condition can take on a fishy or sour smell, affecting not only the urine but also the sweat and breathing. For women, the smell often worsens around menstruation.
When bacteria in the vagina becomes imbalanced, a yeast infection may develop; one symptom of this condition is smelly urine. The smell accompanying this type of infection is best described as yeasty and rarely goes unnoticed. Although the actual infection occurs internally, the urine picks up the smell as it passes the urethra.
A lot of hormonal changes happen to facilitate pregnancy, and some pregnant women notice a change in the smell of their urine. While pregnant, it is common for urine to become much more pungent. The smell is usually strongest during the first trimester.
The same hormones shift during pregnancy and ovulation; some women report smelly urine while they are ovulating. Hormones change the way we smell, in general, and this can include a more ammonia-like scent to urine. However, do not use the odor of your urine to keep track of your ovulation, whether you are trying to get pregnant or prevent a pregnancy, as this is not a reliable method.
Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause smelly urine. Chlamydia is the most likely to lead to this symptom because it is the most frequently reported bacterial STI in the United States. Anyone concerned about having contracted an STD should see a doctor immediately for testing.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.