What Can Urine Smell Indicate?

Does your urine smell off? There could be several reasons for it giving off a different odor. Your diet, supplementation, hydration, and medication use can all impact the scent of your urine. However, some underlying health issues could also cause the problem. Let’s examine the different types of urine smell and what urine smells can indicate.

What Can Urine Smell Indicate?

Foul Smelling Urine

Does your urine smell like sulfur? It may have a whiff of garlic or onions to it. If that’s the case, it could indicate two underlying metabolic disorders.

TAMU (trimethylaminuria) is a metabolic condition where your body can’t process the organic compound trimethylamine. This smelly chemical results in your urine and breath smelling like rotting fish. Trimethylaminuria is a rare disorder, and it’s either acquired or inherited. It’s not dangerous, but it makes life uncomfortable and embarrassing, especially in social settings.

The second disorder is tyrosinemia. This condition has three stages: type I, II, and III. It’s an incredibly rare metabolic disorder where the body can’t break down tyrosine, an amino acid. The buildup of tyrosine in the system can cause severe health complications.

Ammonia Urine Smell

If your urine has an ammonia scent, you probably have a urinary tract infection (UTI). The infection results from bad bacteria invading your bladder, urethra, or kidneys. You may have slightly cloudy or dark-colored urine.

This is due to having traces of blood in it. You’ll also find you make frequent trips to the bathroom and may have a burning sensation when you urinate.

These symptoms, alongside fever or mental confusion, could indicate a more severe underlying infection. UTIs are a problem that is more common in women, and the most common infection in pregnant women. Talk with your doctor to learn more about the best way to treat a UTI.

Other conditions that may cause your urine to smell like ammonia include:

  • kidney stones or kidney disease
  • menopause
  • liver disease
  • Sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia
  • prostate infections

You might also experience discharge when peeing.

Some vitamins and medications may cause an ammonia smell in your urine. It usually fades after a few days of stopping use. If urine odor persists, speak to your doctor.

Sweet or Fruity Urine Smell

A mild smell that smells sweet might not seem a cause for concern. However, it could be a sign of high blood sugar or diabetes. The body unloads the excess sugar it can’t metabolize into the urine. This results in a sweet-smelling urine.

If the sweet smell occurs in infant urine, it might be a sign of maple syrup urine disease. This condition requires urgent medical attention for the infant. It’s a life-threatening metabolic disorder where the body is unable to process the amino acids in foods. Don’t delay; get to the doctor right away.

Other Reasons Why Your Urine Smells

Urine is approximately 95 percent water and has little odor. The elements in urine that cause its odor include waste products. They include nitrogen, calcium, potassium, and other electrolytes and compounds. The kidneys filter these waste products from the body, excreting them through your urine.

Apart from the metabolic disease we covered above, there are several other reasons why your urine might smell peculiar.


Dehydration is a common cause of foul-smelling urine. If you’re dehydrated, the water content in your urine drops. The waste products become more prominent in the urine, leading to changes in odor. Dehydration makes your urine darker, usually dark orange or light brown colored urine.


Your diet also plays a role in the smell of your urine. For instance, eating asparagus can create a very strong-smelling odor in your urine the day after eating it. The body converts a specific acid found in asparagus into a sulfur compound, resulting in pungent smelly urine.

Other cruciferous veggies, like Brussels sprouts, can cause the same issue. Spices like cumin and sulfur-containing veggies like onion and garlic also change the scent of your urine.

Drinks or Supplements

Drinking a lot of coffee or alcohol can also make your pee smell strong. Supplements and medications can cause the issue as well. An example of this is riboflavin. Multi-vitamin supplements can alter the normal scent of your urine and turn your pee bright yellow.

Unusual Smelling Urine: What To Do

There’s usually a simple explanation for the changes in your urine smell. The issue usually clears up in a few days; just drink more water to flush your body. But if the smell continues and you have other symptoms, it could be a warning sign of a medical condition. Consult a medical professional immediately.


The attentive, compassionate physicians, providers, and staff at Adult Pediatric Urology & Urogynecology are committed to providing innovative, quality patient care in our state-of-the-art facility.

From screening and prevention to treatment and recovery, our health professionals will be there for you. Our team of dedicated physicians has been serving residents of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota for more than 25 years.

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