Revealed: The surprising foods that make your urine smell funny (and it’s NOT just asparagus and coffee)

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  •  Asparagus and coffee can have some unwanted smelly side effects, experts say
  •  Strong smelling wee can also be a symptom of a urinary tract infection (UTI)

Pungent pee can be caused by dehydration, a urinary tract infection (UTI) or even from taking some medicines.  

But certain food and drink can make your urine smell peculiar, too. And it’s not just coffee and asparagus, either.

Garlic, onions, cabbage can also be the culprits, as MailOnline explains… 

The NHS warns that eating asparagus and drinking coffee can have some unwanted smelly side effects

If you are healthy and hydrated, your wee should be clear or pale yellow and have a mild scent, says London-based NHS GP Dr Hana Patel. 

‘There are things that can often make your urine smell stronger,’ she said.

‘And the most common reason is because you might not be drinking enough fluids. 

‘There are also certain types of food and drink that can make your urine smell, such as asparagus or coffee. So too can some medicines and vitamin B6 supplements. 

Asparagus is known to produce a pong, albeit a harmless one.

The odour is caused by a breakdown of asparagusic acid, Dr Patel explains. 

‘Up to 50 per cent of people find that this is something that they suffer from when they eat asparagus,’ she said.

When this gets digested, it produces compounds including methanethiol, dimethyl sulphide, and dimethyl sulfone.

These contain sulphur, a chemical found in a skunk’s spray, and which gives rotten eggs their putrid smell.

The body can’t break down these compounds, so they are excreted in urine, where they give off a unique stench.

Garlic and onions, cabbage and salt can also be the culprits behind some horrid aromas. But doctors warn smelly wee can also be a sign of dehydration or a UTI

Garlic and onions, cabbage and salt can also be the culprits behind some horrid aromas. But doctors warn smelly wee can also be a sign of dehydration or a UTI

But the green veggies are not the only foods that can cause a scent. 

‘Foods that convert to sulphur compounds in your body can make your urine smell rotten,’ Dr Patel said.

‘This smell is commonly compared to rotten cabbage or rotten eggs and can come from eating asparagus, garlic, and onions, Brussel sprouts, coffee, nuts and fennel, curry and spices in curry.’

Foods that contain sulphur compounds can also be responsible for ‘bad breath’, Dr Duane Mellor told MailOnline. It’s also, for this very reason, that cutting onions can make you cry, the Aston University dietitian says.

‘As we breakdown and digest these compounds, they also can add a faint odour to our urine if we eat a lot of them,’ he added.

If you want to reduce the odour it can be diluted by drinking plenty of water. 

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI)

Urinary tract infections (UITs) affect your urinary tract, this includes your bladder, urethra or kidneys. 

The infection can be treated with antibiotics, but they are not always needed. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Pain or burning sensation when peeing
  • Needing to pee more often than usual
  • Pee is cloudy, dark or has a strong smell
  • needing to pee suddenly or more urgently than usual
  • Needing to pee more than usual
  • Blood in your pee
  •  Pain in your lower tummy, in your lower back or just under the ribs
  • A high temperature 
  • Feeing hot and shivery
  • A low temperature below 36C 

Source: NHS 

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Anything that dehydrates you can also make your urine smell.

That’s because your wee — of which we produce up to 2litres a day — is made up of water and the chemical by-products leaving your body. 

When dehydrated, the mix of water to such chemicals becomes more concentrated, causing the scent to become stronger.  

‘The concentrated waste will make your urine smell stronger,’ Dr Patel said.  

‘Ammonia is a waste product in urine. On most days, you probably don’t notice the smell of it in your urine.

‘However, when dehydrated, the concentration of ammonia goes up and makes your urine smell more strongly.’

Eating too much salty food can also make your wee pungent, experts say.

‘Salt in urine is unlikely to directly alter the smell,’ Chris Blick, a consultant urological surgeon based in London told MailOnline.

‘However, salt may make us more dehydrated. This, in turn, will cause the urine to be more pungent.’ 

Under the same logic, drinking too much alcohol or coffee can have the same effect on the smell of your urine. Both are diuretics.

‘Coffee contains hundreds of chemicals including antioxidants called polyphenols that are responsible for the smell, many of these are excreted in the urine,’ said Mr Blick. 

‘If people are dehydrated these may be more noticeable.

‘Although there is no harm associated with urine that smells like coffee, if this is the case you may want to consider cutting down slightly on coffee or increasing water intake to prevent dehydration,’ he added. 

In some cases, unusual smelling urine can signal an illness or infection, which can be exacerbated by alcohol. 

‘Alcohol can make your urine more acidic and irritate the lining of your bladder,’  Dr Patel said. This acidity, she claims, can make UTI symptoms worse, which can also give your urine an ammonia smell.

‘If you have other symptoms such as pain when passing urine, or passing urine more often than usual or urine that looks cloudy in colour, then you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI), and I would recommend speaking to your GP further,’ added Dr Patel. 

‘Very sweet smelling urine may be a sign of diabetes and fishy smelling urine may suggest infection,’ explains Mr Bick. 

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