Have you ever caught a whiff of your urine and been taken aback by the foul odor? You're not alone. While most causes of smelly pee are harmless, others can signal an underlying medical issue. Read on to learn what makes your pee stink and when it warrants a trip to the doctor.
Urine typically has a mild, ammonia-like scent. But every now and then, you may notice it has an unusually pungent, foul or sweet odor. What gives?
A few factors can cause your pee to smell stronger than normal. But smelly urine can also be a sign of dehydration or a medical problem like a urinary tract infection. So it's important to understand what's causing it.
In this article, we’ll explore the most common reasons your urine might have an off-putting or strong scent. We’ll also discuss symptoms that should prompt a visit to the doctor. Let’s dive in!
Main Causes of Smelly Urine
Wondering what makes pee smelly? Here are some of the most common culprits.
One of the simplest explanations is dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your urine becomes more concentrated. The less water in your system, the stronger the odor can be.
Signs your pee smells because of dehydration include:
- Dark yellow or amber-colored urine
- Only peeing a few times a day
- Feeling thirsty
Drinking more fluids, especially water, can help dilute your urine and reduce odor. Aim for the recommended daily intake of around 11 cups for women and 15 for men.
Certain Foods and Drinks
Believe it or not, some foods and drinks can directly impact the way your urine smells. So if you notice a foul odor after eating something new, that could be the cause.
Some of the top food culprits include:
Thanks to a sulfur compound called methyl mercaptan, eating asparagus can make your pee smell funky. The odor is often compared to rotten cabbage.
After eating fish, don’t be surprised if your urine smells...well, fishy. Certain proteins break down into smelly chemical compounds as your body metabolizes fish.
Onions and Garlic
They might taste delicious in your meal. But the breakdown of sulfur compounds in these veggies can make your pee reek.
Coffee is a diuretic, so drinking it makes you pee more. This leads to concentrated urine that can smell strong. The caffeine and acids in coffee also contribute to odor.
Foods high in vitamin B6 like bananas, chicken, and potatoes can also lead to urine odor. Your body expels excess vitamin B6 through urine, leading to a strong scent.
Urinary Tract Infections
If you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), foul-smelling urine is a common symptom. That’s because the infection causes an overgrowth of bacteria in your system.
Other UTI symptoms include:
- Burning sensation when you pee
- Constant urge to urinate
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Blood in your urine
- Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
Women are at higher risk for UTIs. But they can affect anyone and require medical treatment.
In some cases, smelly urine can result from certain medical conditions, like:
Uncontrolled diabetes can cause glucose to spill into your urine. This leads to sweet-smelling pee. Other diabetes symptoms include increased thirst and frequent urination.
Issues like kidney stones or chronic kidney disease can cause urine odor. You may also notice foaminess and blood.
Other conditions like cystitis, bladder infections, and enlarged prostate can also contribute to foul pee odor in some cases.
Symptoms that Accompany Smelly Urine
Passing urine that smells unusual for just a day or two is normal, especially if you recently ate asparagus or something else that affects scent. But certain symptoms warrant medical attention.
See your doctor if smelly urine occurs alongside:
A burning feeling when you pee could indicate an infection or inflammation.
If you’re suddenly peeing more often or feel a constant urge to go, that’s a red flag. Frequent urination paired with smelly pee can signal a UTI.
Women with a UTI may experience pain around the pubic bone area. Men can have pain around the rectum, lower back, or testicles.
Cloudy or milky looking urine is abnormal. It’s often caused by excess bacteria, white blood cells, or other substances in the urine.
Urine that’s dark brown or looks like tea, cola, or blood could indicate dehydration, liver disease, or other problems.
Any of these accompanying symptoms warrant an urgent care visit. Pee that smells foul and looks abnormal could require antibiotics or other treatment.
When to See a Doctor About Smelly Urine
Occasional urine odor after eating asparagus or taking a new medication isn’t necessarily alarming. But if you notice the following, make an appointment:
- Your pee smells bad constantly, regardless of what you eat or drink
- The foul odor doesn’t go away after a day or two
- You have additional symptoms like pain or frequent urination
- Your urine appears dark, cloudy, or bloody
Seeking prompt treatment is crucial with UTIs. Without antibiotics, the infection can spread to your kidneys and cause permanent damage.
Other underlying conditions like diabetes or kidney disease can also cause urine odor and shouldn't be ignored. It's important to get checked out to determine the cause and proper treatment.
Delaying medical care allows these conditions to worsen over time. So schedule an exam if smelly urine persists or concerns you.
Tips for Preventing Smelly Urine
You can take steps to keep your pee clear and mild smelling:
Drink More Water
Staying hydrated dilutes your urine so it doesn’t have a strong odor. Stick to plain water instead of diuretics like coffee, tea, and alcohol.
Limit Problem Foods
Avoid foods like asparagus, garlic, and fish if you want to curb smelly pee. Or only have small amounts.
Practice Good Hygiene
Wipe properly after using the toilet and avoid holding your pee for long periods. This prevents bacteria buildup that can contribute to odor.
When Smelly Pee Isn't Your Fault
Sometimes urine odor can result from factors beyond your control, like:
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause
- Side effects of medications
- Chronic illnesses
Luckily, doctors can help manage smelly urine caused by hormones, medications, or health conditions. Simple remedies like drinking more fluids can help too.
The point is, don't feel embarrassed if your pee smells foul despite your best efforts. Just take note of any accompanying symptoms and see your physician if needed.
The next time you get a whiff of something funky from the toilet, don't panic. In many cases, smelly urine is no big deal. But it's worth understanding what causes it and when to seek help.
Eating asparagus, staying hydrated, and practicing good bathroom hygiene can go a long way towards preventing odor. Yet certain symptoms do require medical treatment.
Pay attention to your symptoms and see a doctor if urine odor persists or concerns you. With the right diagnosis, underlying conditions can be properly managed so you can keep your pee odor-free.