Urine isn’t exactly a sweet-smelling substance in the first place. The liquid waste often has a distinct odor. Some people describe it as ammonia-like.
However, if your urine has a sweet smell — or a foul, fishy, or musty smell — it might be a sign of infection or another health issue. It could also just be the result of something you ate or not drinking enough water.
Here, we’ll explore why your urine’s smell can change without accompanying pain.
Urine is a waste product, so it can take on all sorts of smells based on what you’re eating, any medications you’re taking, what you’re drinking, and even what you’re doing.
While the foul smell may be alarming to your nostrils, it’s rarely a cause for concern. Consider these possible factors the next time you think your pee has a certain smell.
If you’re in the
Garlic and onions have sulfur-containing chemicals, and as they break down, they can taint your pee. Brussels sprouts, fish like salmon, and certain spices can change your urine’s scent, too.
If you suspect foods are responsible for the odor, try cutting them out of your diet for a few days to see if the smell goes away. You don’t have to avoid these foods forever. Just know that they may add a certain smell to your pee if you choose to eat them.
Urine is a combination of water and chemicals that leaves your body.
If you are dehydrated, the ratio of water to chemicals in the concentrated urine will be smaller. That gives those chemicals a stronger chance of producing an odor. Water dilutes the smell and chemicals naturally.
Other symptoms of dehydration include:
- dark urine
- dry mouth
- feeling tired
- dry skin
- increased thirst
Urinary tract infection
Changes in the smell of your urine may be the first sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Soon after, you may begin to experience pain when you urinate.
The smell is caused by bacteria in your urine. The bacteria can grow and spread into other parts of your urinary tract, like your bladder or kidneys.
UTIs are more common in people with vulvas because the urethra is short. That increases the odds of bacteria finding their way into the urinary tract and causing an infection.
Sexually transmitted infection
Several sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including chlamydia and trichomoniasis, can cause vaginal discharge. This atypical discharge may change the smell of your pee as it’s passing out of the urethra.
Other symptoms, like painful urination and soreness, may develop after the foul-smelling pee appears.
Medications and vitamins
Certain medicines, vitamins, and supplements may alter the smell of urine. Some drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, infections, and diabetes are known to impact the waste’s smell, too.
A person’s vagina naturally contains different kinds of bacteria. Your body works to maintain balance between different bacteria, preventing specific types from growing out of control. This balance is sometimes altered, resulting in bacterial vaginosis.
One symptom of this condition is fishy-smelling discharge, along with:
- gray or white discharge
- a burning sensation when peeing
- itching or pain in the vulva
Those hormones may also be responsible for making your sense of smell stronger.
Ovulation itself does not change the smell of urine. But a person’s sense of smell may be heightened at this point in the cycle, and that might make you more aware of the urine’s scent.
As with ovulation, hormonal changes may make your nose more sensitive to smells if you’re pregnant. That means everything from your urine to the dinner you’re making may smell stronger to you.
Prenatal vitamins also contain some vitamins that may change the smell of urine.
Additionally, people who are pregnant are prone to developing UTIs, and in pregnant people, strong-smelling pee may be the only symptom of the infection.
Diabetes and diabetes medications
Unmanaged or improperly managed diabetes can affect your urine’s odor, too. If there is too much sugar in your urine, you may notice a smell when you empty your bladder. This smell may seem sweet — that’s the excess sugar in your urine.
Other symptoms of improperly managed diabetes include:
- being thirsty often
- feeling tired
- peeing frequently
Liver or kidney problems
The body’s waste control system runs through your liver and kidneys. If these organs are not functioning properly, they may not be able to filter out waste well. This can lead to a change in the appearance, consistency, and odor of urine.
This rare metabolic disorder prevents the body from breaking down certain compounds. Specifically, the body cannot process trimethylamine, which is a compound found in meat, fish, and seafood.
Instead, your body releases the compound straight into your urine. That can make the urine smell fishy or foul, and it can even cause a strong body odor.
If the scent of your pee is giving you pause, you can take a few steps at home to sort out why there’s an odor.
Avoid odor-inducing foods
Though you may love Brussels sprouts beside your pork chops or crave sauteed onions on your risotto, these foods can have a real impact on your nostrils. If you suspect one or more foods may be causing your urine to smell, try giving them a break.
If your urine’s smell dissipates, you’ve found the food that’s causing it. If it doesn’t, you can keep looking.
While the foods may cause a strong odor when you use the bathroom, they’re unlikely to be causing health issues, so the choice to avoid them is a personal preference.
Drink plenty of water
Dehydration quickly impacts your urine’s smell and color. If you’ve not had enough water, you may notice the urine changes to a darker yellow and gives off a stronger smell.
Staying hydrated will help dilute the chemicals in your waste so the odor is more typical.
Try avoiding coffee and alcohol, too. These liquids increase your chances of becoming dehydrated.
Use the bathroom regularly
When you feel an urge to pee, follow it. Holding your urine may concentrate the chemicals, which will make the urine smell more.
Additionally, holding in pee may increase your risk of a UTI.
Take care of your health
Managing chronic health issues like diabetes may reduce or eliminate symptoms like strong-smelling pee.
Of course, if that healthy lifestyle includes more dinners with asparagus and Brussels sprouts, you may be inviting the smell back in.
If at-home treatments aren’t successful, you may have an underlying issue that requires treatment from a healthcare professional. These treatments may include:
- Antibiotics. Antibiotics can eliminate bacteria that may be causing UTIs. They may also clear up some STIs. An antifungal treatment may be needed to treat a yeast infection.
- New medications or supplements. If a medication you’ve been prescribed is causing foul-smelling pee, your doctor may be able to find a suitable alternative.
- Diabetes medication. If your blood sugar is not properly managed, your doctor may recommend several medications and lifestyle changes to help manage your levels.
Foul-smelling pee is usually a temporary issue. It may be caused by something you ate or a lack of water. But if the smell does not go away, it may be time to contact a doctor.
Signs of infection are also problematic. These can include:
- cloudy urine
- bloody urine
If the smell stays around and any of these symptoms or other issues show up, call your doctor for an appointment.
Most of these issues can be addressed quickly. However, if left untreated, issues like UTIs and STIs may become more serious.
When you see a doctor or other healthcare professional, they will likely ask you several questions. This includes any recent health changes you’ve experienced.
They’ll also want to know when the odor first appeared and what you might have done or consumed that could impact the smell.
A urine culture can check for bacteria or signs of an infection. For this test, you will typically urinate into a cup, and the sample will be sent to a laboratory for testing.
Imaging scans, like a CT scan or MRI, may help your doctor check your urinary tract, liver, or kidneys for signs of problems.
Blood work can also help your doctor find other health issues, like STIs, liver or kidney problems, and chemical imbalances.
While smelly urine may be alarming, it’s likely not a cause for concern. Most changes to pee odor are temporary, even if it happens regularly.
Drinking plenty of water can help dilute odor-causing chemicals. However, a sensitive nose may always pick up on them. Urine often has a slight aroma, so changes to it are often typical.
If there is no clear cause for the smell, or if the odor does not disappear in a few days, you should contact a doctor.