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Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
June 21, 2024 ·  4 min read

9 Reasons You Could Have Smelly Urine, and What To Do About It

Smelly urine is usually not a problem, especially if there are no other symptoms. The odor can come and go and vary in intensity depending on what you’re eating or drinking. However, it may be a sign of more serious conditions. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent smelly pee at home. But if there are other issues, such as painful urination and fever, speak to your doctor for testing and treatment. Here are potential causes to look out for.

Dehydration

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Dehydration occurs when the body is losing more fluids than it’s taking in. This can easily happen on a hot day when a person is not drinking enough water. This can lead to urine with a strong odor and a dark yellow color. (A healthy color is pale yellow or clear.) Other symptoms of dehydration include increased thirst, dry mouth, headaches, dry skin, tiredness, and dizziness. It’s common to have smelly urine first thing in the morning after becoming dehydrated overnight.

Read More: Stop holding your farts in – here are 5 health benefits of passing gas

Certain foods

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Foods like asparagus, garlic, fish, Brussels sprouts, certain spices, and onions can cause smelly urine for some people. This occurs because of metabolites that form during the natural digestion process. When certain metabolites come out in the restroom, they can create an unpleasant smell.

Medication and supplements

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Smelly or discolored urine may be a result of medications or supplements such as high doses of thiamin and choline, certain antibiotics, certain medicines for diabetes, certain medicines for rheumatoid arthritis, and chemotherapy. 

Diabetes 

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Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is a frequent occurrence with diabetes. It happens when the body doesn’t have enough insulin to process the excess glucose. Therefore, the body will try to expel it through urine, which can cause a strangely sweet smell. Other early signs of diabetes include frequent urination and excess thirst. 

Liver disease

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Like diabetes, severe liver disease can be accompanied by sweet-smelling pee. Seek immediate medical help if you suspect you have liver disease because it can become life-threatening without proper treatment. Symptoms include jaundice, fatigue, bloating, weight loss, dark urine, and the loss of sex drive.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

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UTIs appear when foreign bacteria enter the urethra and begin multiplying in the bladder. This infection can cause a “burning” feeling while urinating, frequent urination, difficulty emptying the bladder, fever, and urine that is cloudy, bloody, or smelly. Antibiotics can often treat UTIs, but if the infection goes untreated, it can worsen and spread to the kidneys.

Read More: How to Hold Your Poop: Here Are 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t

Pregnancy

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Pregnancy may not necessarily cause smelly urine. However, the hormonal changes can enhance the sense of smell, which can make the odor of regular pee more prominent. Plus, certain prenatal vitamins, especially those with B vitamins, may alter the smell. Keep in mind that pregnancy increases the risk of UTIs, so monitor this symptom closely since sometimes smelly urine is the only sign of the infection.

Kidney Stones

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Kidney stones form when minerals in the urine cluster together into hard “stones”. They can range from being as small as grains of sand to being as large as a piece of gravel. As expected, they can be extremely painful to pass and can be accompanied by a bad smell. Other symptoms include urinating frequently, pain while urinating, fever, bloody urine, nausea, vomiting, and pain in the back or groin.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

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This is a common vaginal infection that involves changes to vaginal discharge, a burning feeling while urinating, irritation in the vaginal area, “fishy-smelling” vaginal discharge, as well as smelly urine. BV is not a serious infection, and it may go away on its own, but it may lead to an increased risk of developing an STI or pregnancy complications. BV may require treatment such as antibiotics, so speak to your doctor if you suspect you have this condition. 

What to do and when  to see a doctor

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First, it’s important to know what’s causing the smell. A good step is to stay hydrated and monitor food intake and see if that solves the problem. Manage any chronic health conditions like diabetes under a doctor’s guidance, and use the restroom as soon as the urge begins. But if you suspect you have diabetes or an infection, speak with your doctor, especially if you have other symptoms like pain while urinating, bloody pee, vomiting, back pain, fever, etc. You may also want to speak to your healthcare provider about the side effects of any medications or supplements you’re taking. 

Read More: Why You Should Pee In The Shower

Sources

  1. “Why Does My Pee Smell?” Health. Samantha Lauriello. June 12, 2023
  2. What causes smelly urine?” Medical News Today. Zawn Villines. January 25, 2024
  3. “What Can Cause Urine to Smell Foul Without the Presence of Pain?” Healthline.  Kimberly Holland. February 1, 2023
  4. “Smelly urine.NHS. October 16, 2023