Causes and Treatment of Foul or Sweet Pee Smell
If you ever rely on the “pee test” to check if you’re sufficiently hydrated, consider adding the “sniff test” to your toilet bowl assessment. Yes, it may sound silly, but just as the color of your urine can give you clues about hydration and more, its smell can also reveal important things about your health.
Urine is produced by the kidneys and consists mostly of water, along with some level of waste products that the organ works to filter out, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, ammonia and chloride. When your urine is mostly water (i.e. you are hydrated), it has little or no odor, whereas urine that contains more waste products (i.e. you might be dehydrated), it will smell stronger, usually like ammonia, says Cassandra Kovach, MD. , a nephrologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
But there are other smells your pee can give off, and the reasons can range from harmless (like, say, you ate asparagus for dinner) to more serious (like a signal of an infection. or chronic disease).
Here are some of the most common causes of smelly urine, as well as what to do when you smell a puff.
Not drinking enough means your pee contains less water and a higher concentration of those waste products that the kidneys are trying to filter out, so you’ll likely notice an ammonia smell and your urine will be a darker yellow hue.
What to do about it: Fill that bottle with water and try to remember to take a few sips regularly. Try setting a phone alert that reminds you to sip every X minutes; download a water tracking app that sends you built-in reminders; and as soon as you notice your bottle is empty, refill that baby! If you struggle with regular H20, alternate with delicious sparkling water or try adding fresh fruit, cucumbers or fresh herbs to your water. “Drink enough water so you don’t feel thirsty, and drink more in hot weather and when you exercise,” says Dr. Kovach. However, if you have a condition such as heart failure or liver or kidney disease, always talk to your doctor before aggressively increasing your fluid intake.
2. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
A UTI can also cause your urine to smell like ammonia, but you’ll also likely have other recognizable symptoms such as burning or pain when urinating, blood in your urine, and an urgent or frequent need to drink. urinate, says Dhruti Patel, MD, a urologist at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.
What to do about it: Make an appointment with your doctor, who can test to confirm you have a UTI and make sure it hasn’t spread to your kidneys. Until the infection passes, “increase your water intake to 100 ounces of water per day,” Dr. Patel says.
Uncontrolled or poorly managed diabetes can cause your urine to smell sweet or fruity because it contains excess glucose. You may also notice other signs that your blood sugar is low, such as feeling thirsty or tired, fruity breath, or nausea and vomiting.
What to do about it: If you already know you have diabetes, check your blood sugar and take regular steps to balance it. If you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, make an appointment with your doctor so they can help you start treatment and make lifestyle changes that will help you control your blood sugar and help you maintain good health, says Dr. Patel, who also notes that it’s a good idea to decrease your sugar intake as well.
4. Liver disease
A very strong ammonia or musty odor could signal liver disease; when your liver is not working as well, there will be more ammonia in your urine and blood. You may also experience symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and eyes, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, swelling in the abdomen, and bruising or bleeding easily, says Dr. Kovach.
What to do about it: Talk to your doctor, says Dr. Kovach, who can test you for the disease and advise on treatment and next steps, which will depend on the stage of the disease. Depending on your diagnosis, you may only need lifestyle changes with monitoring of liver function, while at other times a patient may need medication or surgery.
Bladder infections such as bacterial vaginosis can cause your urine to smell fishy and foul, and you’ll often have other symptoms such as unusual discharge. Certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia can also change the smell of your urine, often because it contains discharge.
What to do about it: See your doctor to get tested and receive any medications or antibiotics needed to get rid of it.
6. Gastrointestinal bladder fistula
“It’s an abnormal connection between the intestines and the bladder,” and it can cause urine to smell like stool, says Dr. Kovach. “A person can also get a persistent and recurrent urinary tract infection and have gas coming out of their urethra (the tube that drains urine from the bladder) when they urinate,” adds Dr. Kovach.
What to do about it: Schedule a doctor’s appointment. It often requires surgery to repair damaged tissue.
7. Medicines, vitamins or antibiotics
Certain medications, supplements, or antibiotics can cause our pee to smell foul. For example, antibiotics containing penicillin can make your urine smell musty, while certain vitamin supplements can make it smell stronger than usual.
What to do about it: If you take vitamins and supplements, it can’t hurt to talk to your doctor to make sure your dose is correct or that these supplements are needed. If your urine smells bad from antibiotic use, it should return to normal once you’ve finished your treatment.
8. Hormonal changes
Normal hormonal changes can alter the smell of your urine. For example, a symptom of menopause may be a different smell in your pee due to lower estrogen and changes in vaginal flora, while pregnancy may simply make you more sensitive to smells, causing you to notice that your pee feels more than usual.
What to do about it: Your doctor can help you manage both menopause and pregnancy to make sure your days are as happy and healthy as possible.
9. Certain foods
Your breakfast, lunch or dinner may be the reason behind funky scented pee. Garlic, onions, and asparagus can make your urine smell like rotten eggs or rotten cabbage, Dr. Kovach says, while salty foods can make your urine smell stronger like ammonia. Brussels sprouts, coffee, honey, dried fruits, alcoholic beverages, and fennel or black tea can also make your urine smell strange, adds Dr. Patel.
What to do about it: If it really bothers you, stop eating the food that makes your urine smell. If you don’t know what the culprit is, try tracking your food for a few days or a week and weeding out possible suspects until you find the right one.
10. Maple syrup urinary disease
“Maple syrup urinary disease is a rare genetic condition that is diagnosed in early childhood,” says Dr. Kovach. “Babies often show other symptoms such as convulsions, drowsiness, poor feeding, weight loss and irritability. This means that there is a deficiency in a certain enzyme complex which is necessary for break down amino acids, and this leads to an abnormal buildup of these amino acids and toxic by-products.
What to do about it: The disorder is often detected during standard newborn screenings, but some cases may be discovered later. Maple syrup urinary disease can be successfully managed with a specialized diet.
At the end of the line :
“Most of the time, when someone’s urine smells bad, it doesn’t mean they have a serious illness, and it goes away on its own. If someone’s urine smells strange and it’s caused by a medical condition, there are usually other symptoms present,” says Dr. Kovach. If you experience the latter, this is when you should talk to your doctor immediately.
Alyssa is the Managing Editor of Hearst Health Newsroom, where she has written research-based health content for Prevention, Good Housekeeping and women’s day since 2017. She has over 13 years of experience in reporting and editing and previously worked as Head of Research at Reader’s Digest, where she was responsible for the health vertical of the website as well as writing health content for the print magazine. She has also written for Chowhound, HealthiNation.com, Huffington Post and more.
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