Seven Reasons Your Pee Smells Weird

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A slight change or an increased potency is most likely due to something very minor, like a food you ate.

Your pee can tell you a lot about your health. While its color is a pretty good indicator of your hydration levels, dietary habits, and potentially, undiagnosed medical conditions, its smell can also clue you in to what’s going on inside your body.

“Normal urine, if you’re fairly hydrated, generally has a very limited amount of smell,” Ojas Shah, M.D., NYC-based urologist and professor of urology at Columbia University Medical Center and ColumbiaDoctors Midtown, tells SELF. Sometimes you may notice that your pee is a little smellier than usual. A slight change or an increased potency is most likely due to something very minor, like a food you ate. But there are some odors that may signal an underlying health issue.

Here are all the things that are likely to give you smelly urine, from the totally benign to the potentially concerning.

1. You’re dehydrated.

If you’re not drinking enough water, your pee will take on a strong ammonia scent. Without enough H2O to dilute your urine, it becomes more concentrated with waste products and therefore, darker in color and more odorous. Drink more water, and the smell should go back to normal.

If you’re not drinking enough water, your pee will take on a strong ammonia scent.

2. You have a urinary tract infection or bladder infection.

“A urine infection will make your urine smell pretty foul at times,” Shah says. This could signal a variety of bladder problems, like a UTI, bladder infection, or inflammation of the bladder (cystitis). If you notice your pee doesn’t just smell strong, but it smells bad, you should see a doctor to get it checked out.

3. You drank a ton of coffee.

Ever drink a ton of coffee on a particularly exhausting day, and thought you were going crazy because then your pee kind of maybe smelled a little bit like coffee? Well, it’s not your imagination. Shah explains that no one knows the exact reason — “I don’t think anybody has spent the time or money to find out why,” he notes — but some sort of byproduct after the coffee is broken down retains that smell, so you can still recognize it after it’s been excreted.

4. You ate a bunch of garlic and onions.

They don’t just make your breath reek, but garlic and onions can actually make your urine smelly, too. Again, Shah explains, something the body produces when it breaks these down maintains the odor even in the urine. It’s not surprising, when you think about how permanent the stench seems in your mouth, that it can somehow survive the body’s most rigorous cleansing process, too.

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