What Should My Urine Smell Like?

| Modified on Jul 09, 2023
What should my urine smell like?

The urine of a healthy and adequately hydrated person should be light in color and have little odor. Health conditions, medications, supplements, the food you eat, and dehydration can all affect the smell of your urine. Natural remedies can sometimes help, depending on the cause of your smelly urine.

If you are concerned about the odor of your urine, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • When did I notice a change in odor?
  • What medications or supplements do I take?
  • Have I added or deleted any supplements from my regime?
  • Do I drink enough water?
  • What is the color of my urine?
  • Do I have pain when I urinate?
  • Do I have any other health conditions?
  • Has my diet changed?
  • Have I been exposed to any new toxins?

The answers to the above questions may help you connect the dots and figure out the cause of your urine's odor.

Rule Out Dehydration

Urine will have a strong smell and dark color (like tea) when you are dehydrated. If you consume a lot of caffeine or alcohol, you may be dehydrated even if you drink enough fluids. If you exercise a lot, even if you drink a lot, you could be dehydrated. Try to drink more water or herbal tea if you do not have plentiful and pale urine. Fluids are best consumed over the course of a day. You will flush too much liquid at a time out of your body. Massive amounts of fluid at once can cause dangerous imbalances in your body.

(Note – B vitamins can cause "sunshine yellow" urine. This bright yellow colored urine is not a cause for concern if the vitamins cause it; it is just your body flushing out the excess.)

Sulfur Smell

Certain foods can cause a sulfur smell (think of the smell of eggs boiling.) Garlic, onions, and asparagus all have the potential to cause this type of odor in your urine.

Ammonia Smell

An ammonia smell can be caused by dehydration, infection, liver damage, and certain foods (especially nitrogen rich food.)

Sweet Smell

A sweet or sugary smell can be caused by glucose (sugar) or ketones in the urine. Often people with diabetes will "spill sugar" into their urine when their blood sugar is high. Ketones in the urine can result from low carb/high fat and protein diets where the body is using ketones instead of glucose as fuel. Ketones may also be present in the urine in a person with anorexia.

Medication or Vitamin Smell

Medications and vitamin supplements can cause your urine to smell "off" because some of the components of them will be excreted through the urine. An unfamiliar smell in your urine is not uncommon when you begin taking a medication. After you have surgery, your body will be flushing out the anesthesia, which can also cause your urine to have an "off" odor.

Chemical Smell

If you have been exposed to chemicals, your body will try to eliminate them, which can affect your urine's odor. For example, some paints are quite toxic, and your body can absorb those chemicals, primarily if you paint a large area with little ventilation. Your body may put off a chemical smell for days after this type of exposure.

Foul Smell

Foul-smelling urine could be caused by something as simple as what you ate for dinner. It can also be caused by infection. However, if you have an infection, the smell will not disappear over time, and it will likely get worse if you do not treat it. Other signs of illness are blood in the urine or cloudy urine.

What Should I Do about Smelly Urine?

Urine Test Strips

You can buy urine test strips at the pharmacy. Basic test strips will check protein, glucose (sugar), pH, and ketone levels, and this will give you quite a bit of information to work with. You can also buy test strips that can check for white blood cells or red blood cells in the urine, alerting you to infection or blood in the urine.

Get Medical Advice

If you have a fever, pain when urinating, or other severe or unusual symptoms, you should consult a health professional for advice.

Natural Remedies to Improve the Smell of Urine

Apple Cider Vinegar

Taking the apple cider vinegar tonic addresses many health issues that can cause your urine to be off. It can fight a mild urinary tract infection, restore proper pH to the body, detoxify the body, and balance blood sugar. 1 Tablespoon in a glass of water once or twice a day is a typical amount to take.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal can also help a variety of the above issues. It neutralizes odors, helps with infection, and can benefit your body detox from medication or chemicals. Take 1-2 tablets 2-3 times daily. Do not take charcoal within two hours of any medicine. Ideally, it should be taken on an empty stomach, but taking it with food is okay if that is the only time you can take it. It would help if you always took it with plenty of water to avoid the risk of constipation. You can find activated charcoal at your local health food store or online.

Have you dealt with an unusual odor in your urine? Did you find the cause and treatment? Please send us some feedback!

Make sure to read our Reader Q&A section as well for clues to your condition.

Apple Cider Vinegar

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Tgoodwin (Nyc) on 12/02/2016

I agree, people should be aware of changes in the smell of their pee.

My urine was smelling strongly for about a week. Normally it would only have this same smell if I drank a 16 ounce can of soda and overdosed on sugar! So I cut out all sugar, caffeine, alkalized by drinking baking soda in water and drank MORE water for hydration. Nothing helped. Finally I tried ACV - 2 tablespoons in 16 ounces of water. I drank a large glass in the morning. Then I nursed a second large glass throughout the day. Took care of the strong urine smell immediately. I continue to do it every day, but just one large glass that I slowly drink. Good stuff. I'm guessing the sudden change in smell had something to do with my kidneys or pancreas.

Effect of Curcumin on Urine

1 User Review

Posted by Joyce (Joelton, Tn) on 02/02/2010 495 posts

I also have a question for the rest of the EC family. Have any of you experienced a change in the color of your urine while using curcumin? For some reason or other, my urine changed color after using curcumin. If any of you are familiar with pyridium, a drug that ends the pain of bladder/kidney infections, the color was very similar to the color of the urine of someone who is taking pyridium!

Replied by Rena
(Mineral Bluff, Georgia, Usa)

Hi Joyce From Joelton,

I hope others chime in but I'll be happy to give you my experience with turmeric. Being such a strong color, I was expecting my urine and/or stools to turn yellow, but they do not. Everything is normal in color. I Have even taken as much as 8, "00" in a day (capping my own) and still no change in color. I also hope to hear from others now I'm curious, Peace, Rena.

Replied by Joyce
(Joelton, Tn)
495 posts

Thanks, Rena from Mineral Bluff.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that turmeric in the presence of something turned ruby red, but I can't remember what that presence was and I can't find it again. If anyone read the same thing and can remember what it was, please share with us. The color my urine changed to was very close to that of pyridium - close to florescent orangeish-red.

Replied by Quiltartist
(Gualala, California)

Three days ago I started 400mg curcumin and my urine is an orangish rosey color. I called the supplier and they'd never heard of this effect. Glad to have come across this comment. I've never had blood in my urine, but this doesn't strike me as looking like what I think that would look like. And it coincides with my having started this supplement. When you open a capsule and mix the content in water you notice the water turns golden, but there is granular material that doesn't dissolve and it is a vermillion color. I'll discontinue taking the product a few days to be sure that's what this color change is, but it has dramatically helped my costal chondritis, so I'll resume. Don't care what color my urine is as long as the cause of the change is harmless.

Replied by Mimi
(Abu Dhabi, Uae)

It seems Bicarbonate of soda has that effect. I was applying a paste of Turmeric and castor oil on my face for acne and wiping it off with cotton pads soaked in bicarbonate of soda. Found that this turned the pads bright red!

Replied by Mary

YES! Scared the wits out of me at first, then realized I was taking extra turmeric for arthritic pain. Urine is orange - but only shortly after I ingest the pill. It later clears to yellow.

General Feedback

Posted by Earth Clinic (USA) on 12/05/2016

You know you're onto an important health topic when another site copies the topic a day after we published the article on our home page. Hello Dr. Axe!


Replied by Rebecca

hi, was EC given credit for the info?