Why Does My Pee Smell? (And What It Means)

This piece has been medically reviewed by Susie Gronski, PT, DPT, Medical Advisor to Aeroflow Urology.

Ever notice your urine smelling a little different? In most cases, it’s not a serious condition and can be fixed by making a few lifestyle changes.

Read this article to find out what your urine smell means and how to fix it.

Why Does My Pee Smell?

 There are a number of common causes for smelly urine.

  • Certain foods. Different strongly-scented foods, such as brussels sprouts, asparagus, onions, and garlic, can make strong-smelling or foul-smelling urine. These types of foods are converted into sulfur compounds which can smell like rotten cabbage or eggs.
  • Medications. Medications, such as antibiotics, contain mold. The mold makes your pee smell like yeast.
  • B Vitamin Supplements. Supplements like vitamin B6 can dissolve in water (water soluble). When ingested, B vitamins aren’t stored by your body which means they can make your pee smell.

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  • Dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your urine becomes more concentrated. This urine can sometimes smell like ammonia.
  • Urinary Tract Infections. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also make your urine smell like ammonia.
  • Liver Disease. If you have liver disease, it can make your urine color dark yellow and smell bad.
  • Kidney Disease. If you have kidney disease, your urine might have a stronger smell to it.
  • Kidney Stones. Kidney stones can cause your urine to smell. These are made by a build-up of waste products and minerals in your kidneys.
  • Diabetes or High Blood Sugar. In advanced diabetes, you may have sweet-smelling urine and fruity-smelling breath. This is due to your body containing more sugar in your bloodstream your body is trying to get rid of.
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a metabolic state associated with pathologically high serum and urine concentrations of ketone bodies. This can cause your breath and urine to smell sweet.
  • Maple Syrup Urine Disease. High levels of amino acids can cause urine to smell. This is known as maple syrup urine disease which is a life-threatening condition in which your body can’t break down amino acids.

Getting Rid of Smelly Pee

What you do to get rid of urine that smells is going to depend on what’s making it smell in the first place. Here are some solutions to common problems.

  • If your urine smell is due to not drinking enough water, drink more water to dilute the urine.
  • If your urine smells because you’re eating specific foods, this is normal and will be resolved within a few days. There’s no need to change your diet unless you’re feeling completely distressed about the smell of your urine. If this sounds like you, minimize or avoid these foods.
  • If smelly urine is due to supplements or medications, consult with your healthcare professional.
  • If urine odor is due to a known or suspected underlying medical condition, seek medical attention from your healthcare provider. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
  • If the smell of your pee is due to a UTI, see a healthcare provider, such as a urologist, to help cure your infection.

Quick Tips for Keeping Your Urinary System Healthy

Here are some simple tips for avoiding smelly urine and keeping your urinary system functioning properly.

  1. Drink plenty of fluids.
  2. Stay physically active.
  3. Maintain a balanced diet (sugar and alcohol in moderation).

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Dr. Susie Gronski, PT, DPT

Specializing in men’s pelvic and sexual health, Susie Gronski, PT, DPT is a Medical Advisor and Writer for Aeroflow Urology and a licensed doctor of physical therapy, certified pelvic rehabilitation practitioner, Michigan-trained sex counselor and educator, international teacher, and author of "Pelvic Pain The Ultimate Cock Block: A No-bullshit Guide for Men Navigating Through Pelvic Pain." Learn more at www.drsusieg.com

Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.