Smelly Pee: 7 Alarming Reasons Your Urine Might Have A Strange Odor

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Senior Editor of Branded Content at Wild Sky Media. She grew up in upstate New York and Oregon and now lives in Queens, NY. Ileana graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in sociology. After graduating, she attended the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, then worked as in marketing at Oxford University Press. Since transitioning to editorial, she has written for BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Woman's World. She has also worked for local newspapers and magazines in upstate New York. In her free time, you can find Ileana watching Law & Order: SVU, eating ice cream, and spending time with her dog.

Every day, we all excuse ourselves to the restroom multiple times — but for some reason we’re really shy when it comes to talking about it.

You know what it is: Peeing. Urinating. Letting it flow. Relieving yourself.

Even though we do it every single day, most of us don’t like to discuss our bathroom habits with other people, even doctors.

Sometimes, though, it’s important to pay extra attention to your pee — specifically, what it smells like.

You might be thinking that you know what pee smells like, but once in a while everyone’s pee smells a little… well, funky.

It might seem gross to think about the smell of your urine, but it can actually be an indication of some health issues.

While it may be something minor, like dehydration, the smell of your pee could also indicate a more serious problem, like diabetes.

Keep reading to learn more about your pee and what is causing your strange-smelling urine.

Thumbnail Photo: Wikimedia / Turbotorque

Reasons Your Pee Smells Funky
#1: You Ate Something Weird

urine food
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

There are a lot of foods that can affect the smell of your urine.

Onions, garlic, and brussels sprouts can change the smell of your urine, as can beverages like coffee and alcohol.

Perhaps the most notorious pee-influencing food is asparagus, which is well-known for giving you stinky pee.

Asparagus, like brussels sprouts and other leafy green veggies, contains a substance called mercaptan that releases a sulphur-like smell when it’s broken down by your body.

#2: You're Dehydrated

you're dehydrated
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Obviously, urinating occurs because of the liquids we ingest. If you aren’t drinking enough, you won’t pee as often.

When you do pee, it will be extra pungent (and super dark), since all the vitamins and minerals you’re also peeing out are more concentrated.

When your body is well-hydrated, you’ll experience an immediate decrease in urine potency, because the minerals and compounds will be more diluted.

If you eat something stinky and are worried about the odor, drinking a big glass of water might help offset the smell.

#3: You Have A UTI

urine uti
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

If you have a UTI (a urinary tract infection), this can change a lot about your urine, including the color and smell.

UTIs can cause cloudy, red, pink, or brown urine. They can also give you strong-smelling pee, explains the Mayo Clinic.

To treat a UTI, you’ll usually be prescribed lots of water, plenty of trips to the bathroom, and if the infection is serious enough, a course of antibiotics.

You might expect medication to clear up the funky-smelling pee, but in some cases, the antibiotics can also create stinky-smelling compounds, so you might have to wait for the medication to pass completely out of your system before the odor disappears.

#4: You Have Cystitis

urine cystitis
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

“Cystitis is the medical term for inflammation of the bladder,” explains the Mayo Clinic.

Like UTIs, cystitis can cause pungent-smelling urine and make it a different color.

#5: You Have Diabetes

urine diabetes
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

If you have fruity-smelling urine, it could be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, “Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening problem that affects people with diabetes… Diabetic ketoacidosis is sometimes the first sign of type 1 diabetes in people who have not yet been diagnosed.”

#6: You're Pregnant

you're pregnant
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Most people know that pregnancy makes women pee a lot more than usual, but it can also affect the smell of your pee.

Specifically, pregnancy can make your pee stinkier than it usually is.

Not every pregnant woman experiences a change in urine odor, but lots of women do report this symptom early on.

It may happen because hormone levels fluctuate during early pregnancy, and higher levels of hormonal compounds might build up in your pee.

#7: You Have A Genetic Disorder

genetic disorder
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Certain genetic disorders can also affect the way your urine smells.

Metabolic disorder and “maple syrup urine disease” are just two examples of genetic disorders that can change the smell of your pee.

With “maple syrup urine disease,” urine often has a distinctive, sugary smell.

However, this illness is extremely rare, so smelling something sweet in your pee is more likely to be linked to what you ate. However, it can also be a symptom of diabetes, as mentioned above.

What To Do

urine doctor
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

If you notice that your pee has a strange odor (and it isn’t just due to your food consumption or dehydration), bring it up with your doctor.

Don’t be embarrassed about it — doctors don’t think urine is gross at all.

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