7 reasons why your wee smells strange

Your urine odour and colour can reveal a lot about your health. We speak to a urologist about the most common causes of urine smell.

Common reasons for foul smelling wee
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We all have to wee multiple times a day, so urination is something most people don't think about. But if your urine suddenly starts to smell a bit funky, it could be cause for concern. The smell, colour and frequency of your urine can provide vital clues to your health and wellbeing, so it is worth keeping an eye (and a nose) out.

We speak to urologist Mr Marc Laniado about what to do if you notice a strange whiff when you take a whizz and the most common causes of urine smell:

Healthy urine colour and smell

First things first, what constitutes 'normal' and healthy wee? The colour can vary depending on the time of day and your hydration levels, but healthy urine should be somewhere between pale yellow and gold, with little to no noticeable odour.

'Normal urine when dilute barely has an aroma unless you put your nose right up to it,' says Laniado.

Here are the most common reasons your wee might have an unusual scent, and when you should worry:



1.Foods that can make your urine smell

        We all know that eating certain foods can make your breath smell a bit funky, but some foods will also affect the aroma of your wee.

        Does your wee smell strangely sulphurous this morning? If asparagus was on the menu last night, then this will probably be why. Asparagus is notorious for making urine smell bad, although only about half of us have the enzyme that will break asparagus down to cause this stench. 'Interestingly, only some people can smell the foul urine even if they make it. The reasons are not clearly understood though,' says Laniado.

        Other foods which can impact urine odour include the following, so if you notice a funky smell, recall what you've eaten recently as it could be down to nutrition:

        • Brussels sprouts
        • Cabbage
        • Turnips
        • Cauliflower
        • Garlic
        • Fish
        • Cumin


          2. Urine odour and coffee

          Addicted to that caffeine hit? There's a good chance its has affected your wee as well as your energy levels. So no, you're not going crazy – your urine probably does smell a little like coffee if you drank a few cups today.

          3. Urine smell and dehydration

          If you notice a strong ammonia scent when you wee, it might be time to full up your water bottle. Without enough fluid to dilute your urine, it will be darker in colour and will likely pong a bit more than usual too.

          'Often urine smells most strongly in the morning because there is relative dehydration overnight and this improves when you start drinking fluids during the day,' explains Laniado.



          4. Urine odour and medication

          Are you taking antibiotics or on medication for epilepsy? They could be the culprit of a strange smell when you take a tinkle.

          'Some drugs in the sulpha class, which are also known as sulphonamides, can make the urine smell bad. Sulphonamides have been used for the treatment of infections and epilepsy,' reveals Laniado.

          5. Urine smell and infection

          A UTI could well be the cause of your foul smelling pee. Especially if accompanied by a stinging or burning sensation. While UTIs are incredibly common, they can be uncomfortable and make you feel very unwell. If left untreated they also run the risk of developing into something more serious, so it's important to speak to your GP if you have any symptoms, as you might need to take a course of antibiotics.



          6. Sweet smelling urine and diabetes

          People with undiagnosed diabetes may notice slightly sweet-smelling urine. If symptoms are accompanied by a constant thirst, headaches and a need to urinate a lot more than usual, go and see your doctor.

          'Sometimes urine can smell sweet, because diabetes is present and sugar levels are uncontrolled,' says Laniado. 'However, this is unusual. Another rare disease called maple syrup disease in which there is a problem in the breakdown of amino acids, can make the urine can smell sweet. Alternatively if the urine smells musty, it may because the liver is failing.'



          7. Urine odour and a fistula

          It is rare, but if your urine's smelly and you're constantly getting UTIs, get yourself checked out for a fistula.

          'Occasionally, an abnormal connection between the bowel and bladder called a fistula can make the urine smell bad as well as cause recurrent urine infections,' says Laniado.

          Other worrying wee signs and your health

          To rule out anything more serious, Laniado suggests a number of signs something is amiss with your urine:

          • Urine colour

          The colour of the urine is one of the most things to look out for. Blood is the most serious sign, such as red urine. This is because it can be a sign of cancer and always needs an urgent evaluation by a urologist. However, consider that if you've eaten a lot of beetroot that might explain the red colour, so remember what you have eaten.

          • Pain when passing urine

          If it hurts to pass urine, the smell is offensive, and the urine is cloudy or dark, then there may be a urine infection, and you would need to get that tested as well.

          • Urine frequency increase

          If you're passing urine frequently and in large volumes but not drinking much, that might indicate a problem with sugar control – get it checked out by your doctor.



          Last updated: 08-10-19

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