7 reasons why your wee smells strange

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Your body waste can reveal a lot about your health. We speak to a urologist about the different causes of urine smell.

By Natalie Healey

We all have to wee several times a day, so it’s 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 actually provide vital clues to your health and wellbeing.

We speak to urologist Mr Marc Laniado about what to do if you notice a strange whiff when you take a whizz. ‘Normal urine when dilute barely has an aroma unless you put your nose right up to it,’ explains Laniado.

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

1.It’s something you ate

Eating certain things can make your breath smell a bit funky, but some foods will even affect the aroma of your wee. Some people avoid asparagus because it makes their urine smell bad. But only about half of us have the enzyme that will break asparagus down to cause this stench.

If you notice a funky smell, recall what you’ve eaten recently as it could be down to nutrition.

‘Interestingly, only some people can smell the foul urine even if they make it. The reasons are not clearly understood though,’ says Laniado.

Some other foods such as Brussel sprouts, cabbage, turnips, cauliflower and garlic can have a similar effect on the urine. So if you notice a funky smell, recall what you’ve eaten recently as it could be down to nutrition.

2.It’s something you drank

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.

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3.You’re dehydrated

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 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.It’s your 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.It could be an infection

UTI could well be the cause of your foul smelling pee. Especially if accompanied by a stinging or burning sensation. See your GP because you might need to take a course of antibiotics.

  1. Don’t rule out 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 you used to, go and see your doctor.

Sometimes urine can smell sweet, because diabetes is present and sugar levels are uncontrolled.

‘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.Or (though it’s rare) 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.

So if your urine’s smelly and you’re constantly getting UTIs, get yourself checked out.

What else to look out for in your wee?

To rule out anything more serious, Laniado suggests a number of symptoms which could be cause for concern. ‘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,’ explains Laniado.

If it hurts to pass urine, the smell is offensive, and it’s cloudy or dark, there may be a urine infection.

‘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.’

‘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, he adds. ‘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.’

Net Doctor

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