10 Reasons for Smelly Urine (Why Is My Pee Smelling Bad?)

Urine typically has a faint odor, but occasionally, it might smell stronger or different than usual. While this can be alarming, most causes of smelly urine are temporary and harmless. However, in some cases, it could signal an underlying medical issue. Let’s explore the potential reasons for smelly urine and when you should consider seeing a doctor.

reasons for smelly urine

1. Dehydration

When you don’t drink enough water, your urine becomes more concentrated. This means there’s a higher proportion of waste products compared to water, leading to a stronger smell.

  • What to do: Increase your water intake. Aim to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially water.

2. Certain Foods

Some foods are infamous for their impact on urine odor. Here are some common culprits:

  • Asparagus: It contains a compound that breaks down into sulfur-containing substances, giving urine a distinct smell.
  • Garlic and Onions: The pungent smell of these foods can linger in your urine.
  • Coffee: A diuretic, coffee increases urination frequency and can make your urine smell stronger.
  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts can cause a subtle change in urine odor.
  • What to do: These changes are usually harmless, and the smell goes away once the food passes through your system.

3. Medications and Supplements

Certain medications and supplements can alter the way your urine smells. Common examples include:

  • B Vitamins: B vitamins can sometimes result in a slightly stronger urine odor.
  • Antibiotics: Particularly penicillin-based antibiotics, these can temporarily change urine smell.
  • What to do: Discuss concerns about medication-related odor changes with your doctor. Don’t stop taking medication without their advice.

4. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs are caused by bacteria entering the urinary system. Besides smelly urine, additional symptoms might include:

  • Burning or painful urination
  • Frequent urges to urinate
  • Cloudy or discolored urine
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • What to do: See your doctor promptly. UTIs usually require treatment with antibiotics.

5. Diabetes

Unmanaged or poorly controlled diabetes can cause excess sugar (glucose) to be excreted in your urine. This can result in sweet or fruity-smelling urine. Other diabetes symptoms may include:

  • Increased thirst or hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • What to do: Consult a doctor immediately if you suspect diabetes.

6. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

This vaginal infection causes an imbalance in the normal vaginal bacteria. BV can lead to a fishy-smelling vaginal discharge that may also mix with urine, altering its odor. Other symptoms can include:

  • Vaginal itching or burning
  • Thin, grayish-white discharge
  • What to do: A doctor can diagnose and prescribe appropriate treatment for BV.

7. Liver Problems

The liver plays a vital role in filtering toxins from the body. Severe liver dysfunction can sometimes result in musty-smelling urine. Other signs of liver issues may include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • What to do: Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms.

8. Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals that form in the kidneys. They can obstruct urine flow and cause an ammonia-like smell in your urine. Additional symptoms can include:

  • Intense back or side pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • What to do: See a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

9. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Some STIs can cause changes in the odor of urine or vaginal discharge. Examples include:

  • Trichomoniasis: This STI often causes a fishy-smelling vaginal discharge that can affect urine smell.
  • Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: These STIs sometimes cause changes in discharge, impacting urine odor.
  • What to do: If you suspect an STI, get tested and treated promptly.

10. Metabolic Disorders

Certain rare metabolic disorders can impact how your body breaks down substances, leading to unusual urine odors.

  • Maple Syrup Urine Disease: This genetic disorder affects the breakdown of certain amino acids, leading to a sweet smell in urine.
  • Trimethylaminuria: This condition makes it difficult for the body to break down a compound called trimethylamine, resulting in a fishy odor in urine, sweat, and breath.
  • What to do: Consult your doctor if you notice a persistent, unusual odor in your urine that cannot be attributed to other causes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When should I see a doctor about smelly urine? A: Seek medical attention if your smelly urine is accompanied by other symptoms like pain, burning, fever, or unusual discharge. Also, consult a doctor if the smell persists despite lifestyle changes.

Q: How can I get rid of smelly urine? A: In most cases, the best way to address smelly urine is to:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to dilute your urine.
  • Identify dietary triggers: If you suspect certain foods, consider removing them from your diet temporarily.
  • See a doctor: Rule out any underlying health conditions.

Q: Are there home remedies for smelly urine? A: While some people drink cranberry juice for urinary health, its effectiveness in managing smelly urine isn’t strongly supported by scientific evidence. Always prioritize addressing the underlying cause rather than relying solely on home remedies.


Most causes of smelly urine are benign and easily resolved. However, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor if you have concerns, particularly if other troublesome symptoms accompany the smell or don’t go away on their own.

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