Why does my wee smell? Six possible reasons for smelly urine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Believe it or not, smelly urine is often not a huge cause for concern. There can be a number of reasons why a strong odour encases you during a trip to the bathroom – be it dehydration or simply something you ate.

But there are times when strong smelling urine could be a cause for concern, like if it’s joined by pain or a burning sensation when you pee - or if there’s blood.

But before you start to panic – pee is usually clear or pale yellow with a mild smell – read below for the most common causes of smelly urine and what it’s trying to tell you.

Reasons for smelly urine:

You’re dehydrated

smelly urine, woman drinking water

If your pee is dark yellow and strong smelling, chances are you haven’t been drinking enough water and you’re dehydrated. This is the number-one cause of smelly urine and it’s your body’s way of telling you to rehydrate. Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water and squash, until your pee is a pale clear colour.

You’ve eaten asparagus or garlic

This delicious green vegetable comes with one very noticeable side effect – it makes your pee smell foul. According to the British Medical Journal, 40% of the population say they can smell “asparagus pee” – which is not pleasant when you’re using a public bathroom and someone rushes into the cubicle once you’ve done your business.

But it’s not just asparagus that can change the scent of your pee, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, curry and even alcohol can change the smell. Unfortunately, the only way to combat this is to stop consuming the culprit. Biology professor Dr Ian Davison also told HuffPost that he recommended cutting off the tips of your aspargus is the smell really bothers you, as this is where most of the compounds that create the odour are found.

MORE:Your vagina is ageing: a timeline of changes down there, from your 30s to your 60s

You have a UTI (Urinary tract infection)

smelly urine

If your pee is cloudy, smelly and it hurts or burns when you pass urine – or if there’s pain in your lower tummy – chances are you have a UTI and will need to see your GP for antibiotics. A UTI isn’t just an infection in your bladder (cystitis) - it can also affect your urethra (urethritis) or kidneys (kidney infection). Kidney infections can be serious, so make sure you seek medical treatment as soon as you start feeling symptoms, to get back to feeling your best.

You’re pregnant

Yes, you read that correctly – changes in the smell of your pee can be a sign that you’re expecting. Pregnant women often find themselves needing the toilet more frequently, and many notice a new smell lurking. This is because the hormones produced during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, can make your urine more pungent. So if in doubt, reach for a pregnancy test or visit your GP.

You've taken certain medicines

Which medicines make your pee smell? Apparently, if you take certain heart or pregnancy medications, or Vitamin B6, you may notice a bit of scent when you go to the toilet. This is because some artificial flavourings are put into the casing of pills to make them taste better when you take them - the flavourings can also alter the smell of your pee.

MORE:Menopause supplements: foods, vitamins and herbal remedies to help you cope

But it's normally nothing to be concerned about - contact your GP if you notice it alongside any other physical symptoms though.

smelly urine reasons, woman taking medication

You may have diabetes

First of all, it's important to note that if you do not have any other symptoms of diabetes, such as feeling very tired, very thirsty, and having blurred vision or itching 'down there', it's highly likely you don't have diabetes.

However, if you do have some of those symptoms, and notice a change in the smell of your urine, it could be worth heading to your doctor to get a blood test, to be sure. Diabetes can change the smell of your pee to a slightly sweet scent, as the condition means your body is unable to break down excess sugar (glucose) into energy.

When to see a GP if you have smelly urine:

Most of the time, smelly urine is totally harmless. But there are some instances where smelly urine may suggest an underlying problem.

If you are experiencing lower back pain, pain when peeing, and blood in your pee, you may have kidney stones. If your smelly pee is accompanied by jaundice, tummy pain, and nausea and vomiting, you could be experiencing liver failure. In both instances, see your GP or call 111 ASAP.

These things are much less common reasons for smelly urine however, so if you notice a scent in your urine it's likely to be nothing to worry about.