What It Might Mean If You Have Smelly Urine

It's different than "asparagus pee."

What it might mean if you have smelly urine getty

"Why does my urine smell?" We've all been there, wondering if it was something we ate, or if something else was wrong with us. While we'd never say that all urine smells great (or any urine smells great, actually), if we have smelly urine, things don't quite seem normal.

Now, not all those smells are bad, but a sweet smell is actually sign of more danger than a sulfur smell. It's confusing, we know, but we consulted a few doctors and they shared what various smells mean, when to worry, and when we probably just need more water.


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1. Dehydration

Many different chemicals are found in urine, specifically ammonia. And it's the perfect indicator to drink more water.

According to Dr. Eric M. Ascher, a family medicine physician, “When your body is lacking excess fluid and you are dehydrated, your urine is more concentrated. It has more ammonia and less of other components, and that will give off a stronger urine-like scent, and usually a darker color.”

2. Too much coffee

When you drink coffee — a lot of coffee — you also may notice your urine smells different.


“Urine is created in the kidneys. The body works as an intelligent machine that holds onto nutrients important for your body and rids the waste in the form of urine. The breakdown products of coffee mixed with ammonia create a strong scent in some,” advises Dr. Ascher.

Couple the dehydrating nature of coffee with the breakdown products, and it may lead to an unpleasant odor.

3. Ketosis

Smelly urine could mean you are in ketosis. What is ketosis? When your body burns stored fats, it means you don't have enough glucose in your system, which results in a build-up of acids (ketones). You may also know of ketosis from the Keto diet.

“One of the ketone bodies produced during ketosis is acetone, which smells fruity or like fingernail polish remover. It is excreted through urine and if you can smell it then you are excreting enough of it to be in ketosis,” says Robert Santos-Prowse, clinical dietitian.


If you are following a ketogenic diet, that is a good thing. However, if you are a diabetic, it may be a sign of dangerously high blood sugar.

4. Too much sulfur

After a meal that was heavy in garlic, onions, curry, brussel sprouts, and asparagus, your urine smells markedly different. But why?

“When these spices and foods are broken down, some release sulfur compounds which are quite unpleasant. Researchers have found that some individuals have a genetic marker in their blood, which enables them to smell this difference when it comes to asparagus. It is called asparagus anosmia, and some individuals have no idea!” Dr. Ascher reveals.

5. Too much B-6

Ever notice a change in the scent of your urine after Thanksgiving? There's a reason for your smelly urine.


“Diets high in foods such as turkey, chicken, salmon, and bananas — all foods with high vitamin B-6 — can cause stronger scented urine. Vitamins that your body does not use or process is released into the urine, and may cause an odor,” says Dr. Ascher.

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6. Too much sugar

If your urine smells sweet, that could be your body's way of giving you a sign that you are indulging in too much sugar. Sweet-smelling urine and frequent urination are often the first signs diabetics notice.

"Diabetics have too much sugar for their body to breakdown because they either don't have enough insulin or their insulin isn't working. If your body isn't able to break down the sugars, they may end up in your urine,” Dr. Ascher warns.


7. Infection

If you wake up and all of a sudden you have burning and/or a foul smell to your urine, that could be a sign of a secually transmitted infection, STI, or a urinary tract infection. This is very similar to yeast infections, which create an unpleasant scent.

“While your urine has bacteria in it, when certain bacteria are present — the bacteria that likely causes a STI or UTI — it can produce a foul smell. It is best to visit your doctor for a urine test in case you need treatment in order to prevent the spread of an infection!” advises Dr. Ascher.

8. Medication

“Certain medications may also your urine smell and look different. Rifampin (an antibiotic typically used for tuberculosis and meningitis) may make your urine orange, for example,” says Dr. Ascher.



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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her at alywalansky@gmail.com.