Pee-ew: Why does my urine smell? (and other things you wanted to know about urine)

Peeing, urinating, micturating, taking a leak, or even having a tinkle are all synonymous to the process our body undergoes to get rid of certain compounds we ingest or the byproducts of what we eat or drink. 

 

As we all already know, pee comes in a range of colors….and sadly a range of odors too. The color of urine can range from blue and greens, to browns and red, and of course the ones we all know and love, bright yellow and clear. The not so fun part, scent can also range from sweet or fruity, like medicine, or even like your morning coffee. 

 

When it comes down to color, bright yellow and clear are signs of healthy urine. If you eat a lot of beets, you may see that your urine is red. This is very common and called “beetaturia,” cool name right? However, if you find that your pee is red and you didn’t eat beets, it may be due to the presence of blood. Blue or green urine may indicate ingestion of food with too much food dye or a bacteria causing a urinary tract infection (UTI) and brown may be due to severe dehydration or a liver condition. 

 

Just like color, the odor of urine is also reflective of what we eat and the health of our bodies. Sometimes our urine may smell just a bit too similar to our morning latte, and that is due to the fact that coffee contains polyphenols which give coffee it’s odor.  When a person drinks lots of coffee, the polyphenols are excreted in the urine, giving the urine the same odor. Asparagus contains a compound called “asparagusic acid,” which, when excreted in urine, gives the foul odor that many people smell after having eaten asparagus. Interestingly, this doesn’t happen to everyone. There is likely an enzyme that excretes this acid that is not present in some people. Meds/supplements/drugs can give a “medicine” smell to urine, and discoloration, when ingested in large amounts. A sweet or fruity scent to urine may be an indicator of uncontrolled diabetes and a foul odor to a urinary tract infection. In all cases, color or odor, dehydration is a factor that only exacerbates them.

 

You should definitely see your primary care giver or a urologist if you’re seeing blood in the urine, burning when you urinate, or a persistent odor to the urine that doesn’t go away with hydration 

 

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