Peeing is quite common in life. And by now you’re probably used to your pee looking and smelling a certain way. But what about if it smells a bit? . . out? It can easily panic if you turn to flush and suddenly ask yourself, “Why does my pee smell like fish?” or, “Why does my pee smell sweet?” or even, “Why does my pee smell like popcorn?” (yes, it’s a thing).
“Sometimes these changes are temporary and harmless. They can result from eating certain foods or vitamins, or taking certain medications,” Cleveland Clinic reports. Other times, changes in urine — including the smell — may indicate a more serious condition.
Here, a urologist gives eight reasons why your pee smells or looks different than usual, and what to do next.
Why does my pee smell? You’re dehydrated
If you’ve drunk enough water, your pee should be pale yellow or clear. When your body is dehydratedon the other hand, your pee will be a darker color – and it will also affect the smell. “More concentrated urine can cause a stronger, more potent odor,” Michael Ingber, MD, board-certified urologist, told POPSUGAR.
As soon as you notice your pee turning dark or smelling stronger than usual, that means it’s time to drink more water, says Dr. Ingber. If that helps, dehydration may be to blame.
Side note: Things other than dehydration can cause dark or brown urine, including problems like rhabdomyolysis, which can be dangerous. So if drinking more water doesn’t lighten your urine quickly, or if the dark color is accompanied by other feelings such as pain or fatigue, see a doctor.
Why does my pee smell? It’s something you ate
A major culprit for smelly pee is asparagus. Yes, “asparagus pee” isn’t just an old wives’ tale; the vegetable can even affect the smell of your urine, making it smell a bit like sulfur. However, not everyone experiences this. Dr. Ingber said about 40 percent of the population has a “very strong, classic smell” of urine after eating cooked asparagus. So if you’re asking yourself, “Why does my pee smell like sulfur?” ask yourself what you ate during your last few meals. If asparagus was served, that may be the cause.
Why does my pee smell? You drank caffeine
This one is a bit simpler: having too much caffeine can give your urine a coffee smell. The reason Why your pee smells like coffee is a little fainter, but “coffee has been reported to change the smell of urine,” says Dr. Ingber. “Although not many studies have been done on this subject, I can tell you anecdotally that my patients who take a few venti dark roasts from Starbucks every day often claim that their urine will have a coffee smell.”
He added that since caffeinated drinks can dehydrate you somewhat, it can also affect the smell of your pee. So make sure to combine your java with plain water.
Why does my pee smell? You have an infection
Wondering, “Why does my pee smell like fish?” Maybe you have one urinary tract infection (UTI), says Dr. Ingber – especially if you have other classic symptoms such as frequent urination and a burning sensation when you go to the bathroom.
A fishy smell alone is not enough to diagnose UTIs, as other vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, can also cause your urine to take on a fishy smell. Dr. Ingber suggests calling your doctor if you notice a worse-smelling pee, along with vaginal itching or chronic discharge that won’t go away.
Some sexually transmitted infections can also change the smell of your urine, but what you smell when you go to the bathroom often comes from secretions related to the STI, rather than the urine itself, according to Unity Point Health, an in Iowa-based health organization. system.
Why does my pee smell? You have diabetes
If you have diabetes and your blood sugar is not well controlled, sugar can end up in your urine, leading to sweeter-smelling pee. If you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, but you’re wondering, “Why does my pee smell sweet?” after going to the bathroom, you should see your doctor – it’s a red flag symptom of the condition.
Why does my pee smell? You have taken a new medication or supplement
For example, B-6 supplements can give urine a strong odor, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (B vitamins can also turn your pee bright yellow.)
Other medications, especially those containing sulfa, can also affect the smell of urine. This includes certain diabetes medications, antibiotics and rheumatoid arthritis medications, according to Unity Point Health. So if you started taking a new pill before noticing the change, this could be to blame. That said, it’s still worth asking your doctor if you’re experiencing a major change in the color of your urine, especially if it’s accompanied by other symptoms.
Why does my pee smell? You have kidney stones
Kidney stones are hard objects that form on the inner surface of the kidney, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. They are usually diagnosed by noticeable pain and change in urine color; you may notice red, brown, pink, or cloudy urine, Mayo Clinic reports. But certain kidney stones can also change the smell of urine, making it smell bad.
Why does my pee smell? You ate more protein
If you’ve recently started eating a lot more protein (and cutting back on carbs), that may be one reason you’ve recently asked yourself, “Why does my pee smell like popcorn?” The diet may have increased the amount of ketones excreted in your urine, which can lead to popcorn-smelling urine.
But popcorn-smelling urine can also be a sign of diabetes (or gestational diabetes, if you’re pregnant) and a reason to see a doctor.
It comes down to:
If your urine starts to smell different, it’s probably temporary and harmless, especially if it occurs without other symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That said, strong-smelling urine can also be a sign of a more serious condition that requires treatment and medical attention (such as in the case of an infection, STI, kidney stone, or diabetes). If you notice any changes that last for a period of time or if the change does not appear to be related to your diet, the Clinic advises that you seek immediate medical attention.
– Additional reporting by Alexis Jones
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