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Have you ever used the restroom and noticed your urine was smelling differently than it usually does, or changed your baby’s diaper and noticed a new smell? Well, you aren’t alone. Most people have, at one point in time, noticed a smell that didn’t feel normal to them.
Most of us know that what we eat can affect the smell of our urine. Asparagus comes to mind. Our urine may also have a strong smell after we drink coffee, or eat fish, onions, or garlic. None of these types of smells is anything to worry about. They are perfectly normal.
The next common reason for smelly urine is dehydration. Our urine carries toxic waste out of our bodies, and one of those wastes is ammonia. Fluids dilute our urine, but if we aren’t drinking enough fluids, then we may smell a stronger ammonia smell in our urine.
Don’t like to drink water? Fruits and vegetables can help hydrate as well. A lack of fluids will raise our chances of getting kidney stones and urinary tract infections. That’s why it’s important to drink water when we’re thirsty.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections can bring about a smell to our urine. Bacteria can build up in urine and make it smell. Talk to your doctor if it hurts to urinate and you have a fever. Antibiotics may be necessary to get better.
Kidney stones will give our urines a special odor. Stones can stop or slow our urine flow, which can lead to a buildup of salt and ammonia. Kidney stones often contribute to infections as well. Some stones are made from cystine, a substance with sulfur in it. If cystine is in our urine, it may smell like rotten eggs. Tell a doctor if you have a fever, blood in your urine, or if you’re in a lot of pain. The stones may need to be treated at a hospital.
If we are diabetic, then our urine or breath may smell fruity if we don’t treat our high blood sugar. The sweet smell is from ketonuria or a buildup of ketones. Those are chemicals your body makes when you burn fat, instead of glucose, for energy. Tell a doctor right away if you vomit, have trouble breathing, or feel confused. This could mean a possibility of a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. They’ll test urine for ketones and if it’s due to diabetes, set up a plan to help deal with this disorder.
Largely unknown diseases
There’s a condition called Maple Syrup Urine Disease. People born with this condition can’t break down certain amino acids. When these amino acids build up, the folks living with this condition will notice that urine or earwax will start to smell sweet. If our baby has this disease, we may notice the syrupy odor a day or two after they’re born. They’ll need to follow a special diet. Your doctor can help you figure out ways to manage your child’s condition.
Sexually transmitted diseases can smell very bad. STDs can lead to a smelly discharge in both males and females. We may not have other symptoms (other than smell) or our genitals may itch, and it might burn when we urinate, much like a yeast infection. Bacterial infections like chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. It’s possible we will need another kind of medicine for viral infections.
Taking too many vitamins can cause our urine to smell funny. Our bodies get rid of nutrients we don’t need through urination. Extra vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) can give urine a strong odor. Too much vitamin B1 (thiamine) can make our urine smell like fish. B vitamins can also make our urine look a bright greenish-yellow. Check with a doctor to see if any of these side effects are a problem.
Some medications can cause our urine to have an odor. Sulfa drugs can give our urine a bit of stench. That includes sulfonamide antibiotics. They’re commonly used to treat UTIs and other infections. Medicines for diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis also can affect the way our urine smells.
Pregnancy could be contributing to smelly urine. Morning sickness may leave one dehydrated, and prenatal vitamins might change the way our urine smells. Pregnancy also raises our chances of urinary tract infections and ketonuria. Being very sensitive to certain scents can cause issues. That’s called hyperosmia. Experts think hormones may change our perception of smells. And that means that even if our urine is the same, it may seem like the odor is weird or more intense during pregnancy.
Liver disease or kidney failure
Organ failure can cause urine to smell. Liver disease can make both our urine and breath smell musty. The odor is caused by the buildup and release of toxins in our urine. When we have kidney failure, we may smell a lot of ammonia when we go to the bathroom.
Feminine hygiene products
Using feminine products such as douches can bring on problems. Allow the vagina to clean itself. Washing inside it could upset the balance of good and bad bacteria. That can lead to infections and discharge, which can smell bad when you urinate. Health issues linked to douching include yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease. There’s no need to erase our vagina’s natural odor. If a new or strange scent is present, talk to a doctor.
Stool in our bladder
Sometimes feces get into our bladders by way of a fistula. A fistula is an extra opening that forms between two organs. If we get one between our bladder and bowels, poop or gas may come out when we urinate. We might get this kind of fistula if we have cancer or an inflammatory condition, like Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis. It may happen after we give birth or have a certain kind of operation. Surgery can fix fistulas.
Some babies are born with a condition called tyrosinemia type 1. It means they don’t have the right enzyme to break down the amino acid tyrosine. Too much of this compound can give body fluids, like urine, a rotten odor. It may smell like cabbage. Tyrosinemia is treated with medicine and a low-tyrosine diet.
Fish Odor Syndrome (yes, it’s a thing)
“Fish Odor Syndrome”, also called trimethylaminuria, is a genetic condition that can give our urine a fishy smell. It happens when our body can’t break down trimethylamine. We end up getting rid of the compound through our urine, sweat, breath, and other fluids. It doesn’t mean we’re unhealthy. But our doctor can help us manage the smell. They may give us antibiotics, special soap, or suggest eating certain foods.
Not taking regular bathroom breaks
Not being able to take regular bathroom breaks can cause issues with smelly urine. Our urine might smell funky if it hangs out in our bladder for a while. That may also raise our chances of getting a UTI. This may happen more often in children who don’t use the bathroom when they feel the urge. That’s why it’s always a good idea to remind kids to take bathroom breaks.
As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.
That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.
Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!