Most of us have had the odd trip to the bathroom where foul smelling urine made us wince. Sometimes this is expected—such as after a long night on an alcohol binge or after eating asparagus—but sometimes it catches us off guard and leaves us wondering if something is wrong. Foul smelling urine can be a symptom of a serious illness, such as acute liver failure, but in most cases it is simply the side effect of a less severe condition. Take a look at a few common causes behind smelly urine and bear in mind that a bad urine odor shouldn’t last for an extended period of time. If you experience smelly urine for longer than one week, it is recommended that you check in with your doctor for a urine test.
Dehydration is a well known culprit behind dark, smelly urine. It’s not unusual to get carried away with sports activities or spend too much time in the sun. Dehydration can creep up on you before you even realize that you’re thirsty or have lost too much fluid through sweating. When your body becomes dehydrated, it doesn’t have enough essential fluids to perform the way that it should. Important processes, like filtering the blood, are hindered and can lead to other serious problems.
Mild dehydration can cause your urine to be darker than usual and with an odd odor, which is a result of the urine being more concentrated as your body doesn’t have the fluid to spare when creating urine. Other symptoms include dry mouth, dizziness, sleepiness and lack of energy, long periods between urination, headache, the inability to produce tears, and thirst. Mild dehydration can usually be treated by drinking a glass of water every hour or two until the symptoms go away.
Severe dehydration will cause your urine to turn amber in color and will usually be accompanied by a strong odor–that is, if you are able to urinate at all. By this point you will feel extremely thirsty, be unable to sweat or cry, have dry skin, and even sunken eyes.
Other symptoms include:
Severe dehydration cannot usually be rectified simply by drinking more water, as by this stage the body is seriously lacking in other nutrients that it cannot get from water alone. A trip to the emergency room is the wisest course of action.
Urinary Tract Infection
Foul smelling urine can also be a sign of a urinary tract infection, especially in women. For women the urinary tract—especially the bladder and urethra—are at risk of developing an infection because the location of the urethra (the tube that releases urine from the body) is so close to the anus. E. coli bacteria can make its way into the urinary tract where an infection soon takes place. In addition to lending a bad odor to your urine, a urinary tract infection also makes you feel like you have to urinate frequently, even when you cannot produce urine. It can also cause discomfort and a burning sensation during urination, cloudy or blood-tinted urine, and pelvic pain. If back pain, a high fever, nausea, and vomiting occur, this is a sign that the infection has spread to the kidneys.
Uncontrolled diabetes, also known as “Type 2” diabetes, often crops up in adulthood and can sometimes go undiagnosed for a long period of time. Type 2 diabetes can usually be managed with a healthy diet and plenty of regular exercise, but in an unmanaged state, diabetes can be dangerous. An obvious symptom of diabetes is excessive thirst and frequent trips to the bathroom as your body sucks fluid in order to pass the excess sugar that has built up in the blood. Food binges, especially on sugary and high-fat foods, is also common because the body spends so much energy trying to filter the excess sugar from the body that it has to take in excess nourishment.
If you take vitamins regularly, especially “b” vitamins, your foul smelling urine may be caused by this. B vitamins are water soluble, meaning that your body cannot produce them and the unabsorbed vitamins are simply flushed out of the body through urine. When you go to the bathroom, you may notice that your urine smells funny, almost like the faint smell of a medicine cabinet. This is a very common side effect of vitamin b. Your urine may also be very bright in color, similar to neon yellow. This is nothing to be worried about and is completely expected when taking vitamin b supplements. If you take other vitamins or a multi vitamin, it could be possible that the vitamin contains other water soluble components that are simply being expelled from the body through your urine. Although the odor is not a physical concern, you might want to lower your vitamin dosage if you find it difficult to cope with the smell.