Urine Smells Like Ammonia: What Does It Mean?

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Urine Smells Like Ammonia
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What does it mean when your urine smells unusual? In any situation where the urine smells like ammonia, it is best to determine the underlying cause. Most cases are related to the consumption of certain foods and medications, whereas more serious cases may indicate a disease. We will look at the possible related health conditions and treatment options.

Urine contains water, chemicals, and salt collected by the urinary system in the form of waste products. By producing and excreting urine, the body is able to maintain the proper composition and levels of nutrients in the bloodstream.

Urine’s natural by-product urea is a mixture of ammonia and other elements such as carbon and hydrogen found within the body. Hence, the ammonia odor with urine output. It is when the odor is apparent that an issue may be at hand.

The physical characteristics of urine often help to determine any negative influences within the body’s systems. Normal urine output appears pale yellow to golden in hue and is relatively clear.

Abnormal urine that produces an ammonia smell may appear a dark brown or deep yellow with little clarity. The cloudiness of the urine can range from mild to heavy and thick.


Why Your Urine Smells Like Ammonia

Why does my pee smell? It can be alarming when your urine smells like ammonia, but in most cases, it is due to your diet. This can include certain vitamins, medications and food, such as asparagus.

It may also be a result of an infection or an underlying health condition. We will learn of the accompanying signs to watch for.

1. Dehydration

A case of dehydration may be why your pee smells like ammonia. The lack of water in the body can cause your urine to become concentrated, meaning there is an increased amount of proteins, sugars, and salts, known as solutes.

These chemicals produce the ammonia-smelling odor in the urine. Solutes can also discolor the urine, producing the dark brown or honey color. Bubbles may also be present.

2. Pregnancy

Why does urine smell like ammonia during pregnancy? The body undergoes significant changes throughout this period to accommodate the growing fetus, and your urinary system is no exception.  Ammonia-smelling urine is common in pregnant women as are urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Urine-based waste products may cause discoloration of the pee along with the abnormal ammonia odor without the proper water intake. Dehydration is another common problem in pregnancy.

The  increase in vitamins and minerals with prenatal supplements taken during pregnancy may be another reason for the odor.

3. Diet

In addition to asparagus, certain foods such as leafy green vegetables, onions, garlic, and coffee may also be the cause of stinky pee. Limiting or avoiding intake of such foods may see the ammonia odor disappear.

Foods enriched with proteins may increase the acidic components in urine. Our body produces urea nitrogen as it breaks down the protein in our food. A buildup of nitrogen is seen with excess proteins, and causes the ammonia odor in the urine.

Our body requires sufficient amounts of vitamin B6 to break down protein. Vitamin B6 is water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body. Therefore, a vitamin B6 deficiency will allow more protein to circulate the body.

4. Medications

The ammonia smell and discoloration of urine may also be attributed to certain medications, especially common antibiotics. Ask questions of your doctor or pharmacist about the possible side effects of a prescribed medication, so that any strange urine odor will not be concerning.

The medication “Tagamet,” a stomach acid reducer, may cause the urine to turn a shade of blue. Even the drug phenazopyridine, used to specially treat UTIs and bladder problems, can turn the urine orange. This same color may be seen with the use of certain chemotherapy drugs.

5. Sexually Transmitted Diseases

An ammonia odor in urine may also be caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as the bacterial infections chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Any form of STD that causes vaginal discharge to be in the urine may also cause the ammonia smell.

6. Bacterial Infections

In addition to the bacterial infections of STDs, other infections of the vagina, urethra, and rectum may produce urine with the ammonia odor.

These forms of bacterial infections are more commonly seen in women, due to the close proximity of the rectum, urethra, and vagina in the pelvic region.

7. Menopause

Women typically begin menopause, the end of menstrual cycles, in their 40s and 50s. The changing of the hormones in menopause may be why the vagina smells like ammonia.

As a result of menopause, urinary infections may develop as well as dehydration, both which can cause the urine to have an odor of ammonia.

Does Smelly Urine Indicate Any Medical Condition?

1. Kidney Disease

The ammonia-based, strong smelling urine may indicate a problem with the functioning of one or both kidneys. Any malfunction is a form of kidney disease, known as nephropathy, and may range from mild to severe.

This may be due to an increase of chemicals in the waste products of the kidney, such as proteins and bacteria. The urine can then become highly concentrated, and an increased presence of ammonium can develop. This high level of acidity can lead to kidney stones.

You may be able to boost kidney functioning by increasing water intake and consuming dandelion tea, turmeric, and ginger. These could help cleanse the kidneys of toxins.

2. Kidney Stones

Also referred to as bladder stones, kidney stones are small, hard crystalized chemicals found in the urine. These chemicals include urate, calcium, cystine, oxalate, xanthine, and phosphate, and can cause the strong urine smell of ammonia.

Usually these chemicals are dissolved and passed through urine, as a sufficient intake of water will prevent the kidney stone from forming. Without it, the stones can develop and block the urine passage. Water combined with the acidic properties of lemons may dissolve any kidney stones that have formed.

3. Urinary Tract Infection

Kidney stones may lead to a UTI. This type of infection occurs with the presence of bacteria in or near the urethra.

Once inside the urinary tract, the bacteria may cause fishy smelling urine, or the ammonia odor. This bacterial infection can cause pain and change the transparency of the urine to cloudy. This is caused by the presence of white blood cells, or leukocytes, and nitrites in the urine.

A UTI may present the ammonia smelling urine, nausea, vomiting, fever, sever thirst, and pain in the lower back or side. To treat a UTI, one simple home remedy may be consuming apple cider vinegar to target the bacterial growth.

4. Bladder Issues

In addition to UTIs and bladder stones, other bladder problems are known to cause the urine odor of ammonia. This can include incidences of holding in your urine for too long, which makes the urine become concentrated.

Having abnormal bladder control may also create an odd odor and color of the urine, whether the issue is infrequent urine output or bladder leaks.

The ammonia smell may also be caused by a bladder fistula. This develops when the bladder forms an opening that leads to another organ or area of skin. It is commonly seen with the bowel, known as a enterovesical fistula, or with the vagina, known as a vesicovaginal fistula.

Another health condition that may cause urine to smell like ammonia is ketonuria. This is seen with an increased number of ketones in the urine, mainly due to a lack of the essential natural hormones glucagon and insulin.

Ketones, or ketone bodies, are seen with the breakdown of fatty acids for energy. A high level may indicate a metabolic issue such as diabetes.

5. Diabetes

The abnormal levels of ketones in the liver may be linked to the diabetes disease, and is commonly referred to as diabetic ketoacidosis. Ammonia urine smells are only one of the many effects of this high blood sugar condition.

An increase in appetite, fatigue, vision issues, and thirst may also accompany the strange smell in the urine. By managing the diabetes condition with diet, medication, and lifestyle choices, the strong odor of the urine may dissipate.

6. Liver Disease

Any malfunction of the liver that hinders the digestion of food and the removal of toxins can lead to liver disease, including infection. The liver will not be able to convert excess ammonia into urea.

The existing higher levels of ammonia from the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates in the liver may produce the strong, foul smelling urine.

In addition to the ammonia smell, liver diseases may offer symptoms of nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and fatigue. Herbal remedies of dandelion and milk thistle are commonly used for cleansing the liver.

How to Treat Urine That Smells Like Ammonia

As with most symptoms, treatment begins with addressing any underlying health conditions that may be causing the ammonia smell in urine. There are natural home remedies and lifestyle choices that may help to get rid of the odor.

1. Stay Hydrated

When there is an ammonia odor to the urine and any discoloration, drinking lots of water may help to alleviate these issues. Water will promote the removal of toxins and dilute the urine to return to the normal yellow coloring of straw.

Drink eight glasses of eight ounces of water each day. To avoid nighttime urination, do not wait and drink the total amount in the afternoon and evening hours. Have a glass every one to two hours throughout the day. This will also help the liver and kidneys to properly filter and promote clean urination.

2. Change Eating Habits

If your urine smells bad, it may be from the type of foods you have consumed. Reducing high levels of protein intake will help over time. Many high-protein diets encourage eating large quantities of red meat, and may include whey protein, peanuts, soybeans, and soy extract.

Replace these high-protein foods with vegetables to reduce effects of ammonia-related urine while maintaining a proper protein diet.

3. Medications

Talk to a doctor or pharmacist about any prescribed or over-the-counter medications that may be causing the discoloration and ammonia smell in urine. Do not stop or reduce dosages unless otherwise directed by a professional.

4. Urinate Frequently

One of the causes of concentrated urine can be abstaining from urinating frequently. By holding in urine, the chemical composition of the urine can change significantly enough to produce an ammonia odor.

Avoid this and other related problems, such as pain and strain of the bladder walls, by ensuring the bladder is emptied often.

5. Know Supplement Effects

Nutritional supplements may be necessary for proper dietary needs. Some supplements may also cause urine to have a foul smell, such as ammonia. This can happen with excessive amounts of protein and vitamin intake. It can be a sign of getting too much of a good thing.

6. Maintain Good Hygiene

Any strong urine odor, especially ammonia, may potentially be noted by others, especially in close living or working quarters. Empty your bladder completely and always dry well with each urination.

Thoroughly cleanse the genital and groin areas after every urination to avoid the lingering odor. Changing underwear more than once per day may also help to alleviate any remaining odor that can attach to the underwear with urine drops.

7. Try Home Remedies

  • Apple Cider Vinegar – Try adding one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink several times daily. This may help with any kidney stones and might prevent UTIs.
  • Baking Soda – Add one to two teaspoons of baking soda to a glass of water and drink three to four times daily for two days. It may reduce uric acid, treat UTIs, and dissolve kidney stones.

Baking soda should not be used by those with high blood pressure, any form of cardiovascular disease, on a reduced sodium diet, or experience swelling of the feet and ankles. It may also counteract some medications.

When to See a Doctor When Your Urine Smells Like Ammonia

By making changes to your diet and lifestyle, the ammonia odor should dissipate. However, if the precautionary measures are not working, further investigation may be required by a medical professional.

Smelly urine may be caused by a number of health conditions as highlighted. The medical team will assess any accompanying symptoms and investigate the ammonia-causing odor with several follow-up questions.

  • How long has your urine smelled like ammonia?
  • Are there times when your urine smells especially strong?
  • Are you experiencing any other symptoms, such as blood in your urine, fever, back or flank pain, or pain when urinating?

These questions will determine the next course of action in the way of diagnostic tests that may need to be performed. This may include a male prostate test, a urine test, and imaging tests of the kidneys, bladder, and liver.

Urine that has an ammonia smell is common with consumption of various foods, nutritional supplements, and certain medications. There are natural methods and steps to take to avoid the overwhelming odor attached to urine output.

Some underlying health conditions may offer the foul smelling urine as a symptom of the disease or ailment. Many bacterial infections may cause the body’s chemical composition to change, and emit an ammonia odor in the urine output.

In some cases, a medical assessment and further diagnostic testing may be required to determine the cause and outline a treatment plan.


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