What Your Urine Says About You and Your Health
Your urine can tell you a lot about your health and your habits. Urine is produced when blood passes through the kidneys, which filter out excess waste and water. This waste travels through tubes known as ureters and is stored in the bladder until you urinate.
Urine is roughly 95 percent water, and the rest is composed of thousands of compounds — both inorganic and organic — exiting the body.
Certain changes in your urine or urine habits, either during or after urination, may indicate that you have a medical condition. These signs often include:
The presence of abnormal amounts of certain chemicals, such as proteins, sugars, ketones, and others, can also help your healthcare provider diagnose and monitor various medical conditions.
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What Do the Smell and Color of My Urine Tell Me?
Changes in the smell and color of your urine are typically harmless, but sometimes they can indicate a medical problem. Normal, healthy urine is usually mildly yellow with a slight odor. (1)
Urine can range in odor for various reasons:
- Forty percent of people can smell a change in urine after they eat asparagus, sometimes called “asparagus pee.” (2)
- Dehydration can produce an ammonialike odor. (3)
- A urinary tract infection can produce sweet-smelling urine. (3)
- Fruity-smelling urine can be a sign of type 2 diabetes . (4)
- Foul-smelling urine can indicate a sexually transmitted infection . (4)
Urine can also vary in color for a variety of reasons: (5, 6)
- Clear urine is a sign of good hydration and potential overhydration.
- Pale yellow urine is an indicator of good hydration.
- Dark yellow urine is a sign to drink more fluids.
- Amber-colored urine can indicate dehydration .
- Orange urine can be caused by various foods or medications or be a sign of potential liver problems.
- Pink or red urine can be caused by foods or medications or it can also be a sign of blood in the urine.
- Blue or green urine can be caused by medications or food dyes, but it can be a sign of bacteria or the rare condition known as blue diaper syndrome, too.
- Dark-brown urine can be a sign of liver or kidney problems.
- White urine can occur when your body contains excess calcium or phosphate, or it may indicate a urinary tract infection .
You should always consult with your doctor if you notice a sudden change in the color or odor of your urine.
The color, odor, density, and frequency of your urine can tell you a lot about your health, as can the presence of proteins and ketones. Changes in urine habits can indicate health problems such as a UTI, an STI, kidney problems, and diabetes.
Why does my urine stink?
I have noticed a bad urine smell lately whenever I go to the bathroom. It is so noticeable. I’m very conscious of it during the day. My husband said he noticed it just standing near me! I have never had anything like this before. What could be causing this?
It’s great you’re taking notice of unexpected changes in your body; it’s the first step to taking action and seeking medical attention, if necessary. There are several reasons you may be experiencing your stinky situation including dehydration, eating certain kinds of foods, or an underlying health condition (more on those in a bit). In many instances, changes in urine odor are short-lived. Anytime you notice changes in your body that seem atypical for you, talking with a health care provider may help you identify the cause of the unpleasant odor and offer some potential solutions.
So why might you be experiencing smelly urine? There are several potential factors and causes which may influence the scent, including:
- A higher concentration of waste product in your urine. Typically, urine doesn’t have much of an odor, as it primarily consists of water and little waste product. In cases where there’s a higher concentration of waste product (for example, if you’re dehydrated), urine may adopt a stronger-than-usual scent. Dehydration generally occurs when individuals aren’t getting enough fluids, resulting in dark-yellow urine, which may smell like ammonia. Some other symptoms of dehydration include dizziness and having a dry and sticky mouth. For more on keeping your body hydrated, wander on over to The latest on hydration in the Go Ask Alice! archives.
- Vitamins and certain foods. These could include asparagus, garlic, coffee, and onion. If you consume these regularly, you might cut these foods out of your diet for a bit and see if it helps change the scent for the better. Also, if this scent is due to asparagus, it’s possible that you and your husband may be genetically predisposed to detecting its effect on your urine’s scent and therefore perceiving this smell more readily.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs result when bacteria enter or linger near the urethra (the tube inside your body from which you pee). If not addressed quickly, these bacteria can travel to your bladder and cause an infection. UTIs are more common amongst people with vaginas, due to shorter urethra lengths, and therefore a higher likelihood of bacteria traveling to the bladder.
While more uncommon, rare diseases or liver failure can result in urine having an unpleasant odor. Liver failure may arise in severely damaged livers, rendering them non-functional. Additionally, some rare diseases can cause a build-up of certain chemicals in the urine including:
- Ketonuria occurs when there are high levels of ketone in the urine.
- Maple sugar urine disease is an inherited metabolic disorder that’s characterized by urine that smells similar to maple syrup.
- Phenylketonuria is a rare disorder that causes phenylalanine to build-up in the body.
It is noteworthy to mention that urine itself may not be the source of an unpleasant odor in a person’s nether regions. Instead, for those with a vagina, the stench could potentially arise from vaginal infections, which may be difficult to self-detect. The common vaginal infection, trichomoniasis, can cause a strong, foul, fishy smell. Another vaginal infection, bacterial vaginosis (BV), can also cause an offensive odor. You can read more about these vaginal odors in Changes in vaginal scent.
At the end of the day, you may consider visiting your health care provider as they can help you determine the source of, and possible treatment for, this new, unpleasant odor. The solution may be as simple as cutting down on certain foods, drinking more water, or a course of antibiotics.
Dear Alice, I have noticed a bad urine smell lately whenever I go to the bathroom. It is so noticeable. I'm very conscious of it during the day. My husband said he noticed it just standing near me! I have never had anything like this before. What could be causing this?