We're all familiar with what urine smells like — it's not exactly pleasant. After going to the bathroom several times a day for your whole life, you've probably gotten used to what your pee normally smells like. But what about when it smells a little . . . off? Could it signal a major health problem, or just a change in diet? A urologist breaks down what happens when your pee smells differently than normal and what that could mean.
If you've been drinking enough water, your pee should be a light yellow color or clear. If your body is dehydrated, on the other hand, your pee will be a darker color — and it will affect the smell, too. "If your urine is dark yellow or tea-colored, this may mean you need to drink more water," Michael Ingber, MD, board-certified urologist told POPSUGAR. "More concentrated urine can cause a stronger, more potent odor." As soon as you notice your pee getting dark or smelling stronger than usual, that means it's time to drink more water.
You Ate Asparagus
The whole asparagus-making-your-pee smell thing isn't just an old wives' tale; it can actually impact the smell of your urine. However, not everyone experiences this. Dr. Ingber said about 40 percent of the population has a "very strong, classic odor" of urine after eating cooked asparagus. It doesn't signal a problem or anything; you just might want to be wary of this next time you eat a lot of the green veggie.
You Drank Coffee
Just like asparagus, coffee can make your pee smell weird, even though doctors aren't exactly sure why. "Coffee has been reported to change urine odor," Dr. Ingber said. "While there have not been many studies on this topic, I can tell you that anecdotally, my patients who take in a couple of venti dark roasts from Starbucks every day often claim that their urine will have a coffee odor to it."
He added that since caffeine-containing beverages can slightly dehydrate you, it may affect the smell of your pee.
You Have an Infection
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) include having to pee often and a burning sensation when you go to the bathroom. But Dr. Ingber said another symptom of a UTI is foul-smelling urine.
Other vaginal infections, such as vaginal yeast or vaginal bacteria, can also play a role in urine odor. He said to check with your doctor if you notice worse-smelling pee along with vaginal itching or chronic discharge that won't go away.
If you have diabetes and your blood sugar isn't properly controlled, sugar could make its way into your urine, leading to sweeter smelling pee. If you haven't been diagnosed with diabetes but notice a sweet smell to your urine, be sure to visit your doctor.