These could be the cause of that nasty smell
It happens to everyone: while peeing you notice offensive smells. What’s the cause? There are a few things that could be causing this. We’ve compiled a list for you.
1. You just drank some coffee.
Some people “may notice an interesting odor when they’ve consumed coffee,” says Adam Ramin, MD, a urologist and the medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles. That smelly urine odor is due to coffee metabolites (a.k.a. byproducts from coffee after it gets broken down in your body).
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2. The food you eat
We all know that eating asparagus can cause bad smelling pee. But did you know that Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, curry, and alcohol can have the same effect? They all cause you to pee out sulfur which makes for a pretty nasty smell. Unfortunately, in this case there’s not much that can be done about it except for watching what you eat and accepting the fact that your pee won’t be smelling very fresh.
3. You might have diabetes or prediabetes.
One of the first ways diabetes manifests is in the bathroom, causing you to have to urinate more frequently, says Muhammad Shamim Khan, MD, a urologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital.
Because your body doesn’t process sugar the same way others’ do, you may also have fruity or sweet-smelling urine, thanks to the extra sugar being excreted by your kidneys. Most likely, sweet smelling urine will be a sign of type 2 diabetes—the type that happens when your body doesn’t use insulin well and therefore can’t regulate blood sugar, rather than type 1, which is much rarer and happens when someone’s body doesn’t make insulin at all. Type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed in adults, according to the CDC, because it develops over many years.
One symptom of pregnancy in the early stages is smelly pee which is caused by changing hormone balances. You’ll also have to pee more often during the first phase of a pregnancy. Pregnant women produce more blood which flows throughout the whole body, and thus through the kidneys as well. This means they produce more urine as well. But don’t get worried just yet: having to pee often and smelly pee don’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant. However, if you notice an increased amount of discharge or frequent yeast infections, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a pregnancy test or head to your doctor for a checkup.
If your urine is dark yellow and has a bad smell to it, you may be dehydrated. The solution is simple: drink more water. Within a few hours your pee will become lighter and won’t smell as bad. It takes around three hours for what you eat and drink to take effect on your urine on average.
6. Urinary tract infection
There are several signs that point to a urinary tract infection: thick and bad-smelling pee, pain or burning feeling while peeing and pain in your lower stomach are the most common. If you notice that your pee becomes darker in color and smells bad, it could, as we pointed out, be due to dehydration. But if this comes with one of the other symptoms we just laid out, you might be suffering from a urinary tract infection. If you’re unsure, always ask your doctor. They can give you medical advice and ensure you get treatment as quickly as possible (this often entails taking a round of antibiotics).
7. Medications you take
Some medications can have an effect on the color and smell of your urine. For example, some medications lower your blood sugar because they halt the process of sugar being absorbed into the kidneys and transported into your bloodstream. This sugar goes into your urine which can cause a strange color and smell. There are also numerous medications that can cause your pee to smell like rotten eggs, like the medication given for rheumatism, for example. It isn’t cause for concern, but if it isn’t sitting right with you, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to your doctor.
8. You use douche products.
Douching with scented feminine hygiene products is common in certain cultures, per OWH. Many women practice the habit to improve cleanliness, vaginal odor, or to treat vaginal infections in some cases.
But unfortunately, douching can expose you to organic compounds that are dangerous for your health, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health. It’s also more likely to cause infections than remedy them. Not only does douching not clean your vagina, but it can also mess up the microbiome (a.k.a. the environment of healthy bacteria) of your entire genital area, worsening bad smells rather than improving them, says Dr. Ross. And that includes the smell of your pee.
What to do about it: Skip the douche. If you’re practicing good hygiene (washing the outside bits of your vulva with fragrance-free soap and warm water only) and there’s nothing else going on with your vag, you totally don’t need to douche anyway. A healthy vagina has a mix of both good and harmful bacteria, according to OWH. When you douche, you risk washing out too many of the good bacteria and giving the bad bacteria an upper hand, which can easily lead to an infection.
If you’re worried about the odor of your vagina, see a doctor to pinpoint the real cause instead of trying to mask it with douching.
9. You have kidney stones.
Kidney stones are hard masses that can form in your kidneys when certain chemicals in your urine start to crystallize. If that’s not clear enough, let us spell it out: Kidney stones are made of pee, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
So it’s not too shocking that kidney stones are one cause of smelly urine. While a kidney stone tries to make its way out of your body, it causes a backup of urine (and possibly a urinary tract infection). That results in foul-smelling pee that may also look cloudy.
What to do about it: If your pee is smelly and is accompanied by cloudy urine and pain in your back or side, see a doctor to get that kidney stone out of there ASAP.
Unfortunately, there may not be too much you can do to prevent kidney stones in the first place, as infections and family history of kidney stones are one cause. But the National Kidney Foundation says drinking too little water, exercising either too little or too much, and consuming too much salt or sugar (especially fructose) could also contribute to kidney stones. If you’ve had one stone and don’t want another, adjusting those lifestyle factors might help.
10. You have a yeast infection.
Itchy yeast infections happen when a naturally occurring fungus that lives in your vagina gets a chance to grow wild. Every person has a different vaginal microbiome, but some ways yeast gets the hint that it’s party time are when you take antibiotics, you’re pregnant, you have uncontrolled diabetes, you have an impaired immune system, or you start taking either hormonal birth control or hormones prescribed for menopause, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Yeast infections come with a distinctive “yeasty” smell, thanks to the imbalance of vaginal bacteria, says Dr. Ross. While, yes, yeast infections are technically in your vagina, because your urethra is so close, your urine can pick up the scent as well.
What to do about it: OTC creams and suppositories (like Monistat) can get your microbiome back to normal, and if those aren’t getting rid of the itch or increased discharge, talk to your doc. They can prescribe an antibiotic that can help you get over the infection.
11. You actually have an undiagnosed genetic disorder.
This is probably the least likely scenario here, but certain genetic disorders are associated with a bad urine odor. If your pee smells foul, sour, or fishy, you might have a medical condition called trimethylaminuria, which gives you terrible body odor no matter how much you brush your teeth, shower, or bathe.
Trimethylaminuria is more common in women, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute, and multiple studies suggest that it might be more prevalent among Black American women. Symptoms can worsen or become more noticeable around puberty, before or during your period, after taking oral contraceptives, or around menopause.
What to do about it: There’s no cure for the disorder, but by working with your doctor, there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the smell. For example, doctors may suggest avoiding foods that include trimethylamine and other compounds, such as milk, eggs, peas, beans, peanuts, and brassicas (which include foods like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower). They may also suggest certain supplements, as well as taking low doses of antibiotics to reduce the amount of bacteria in your gut.