What Causes Ammonia Smelling Urine?

If your body is entirely healthy, your urine should have no smell and be very clear. However, when you aren't feeling well or becoming unhealthy, your urine can have a strong color and odor. In fact, concentrated urine can smell like ammonia. This is a telltale sign that there could be something going wrong in your body.

Sometimes it is simply that you are dehydrated, or becoming sick. But an ammonia smell in your urine can also be a sign of something more serious, such as kidney damage, liver disease and more. If you have any symptoms other than the smell, such as urine with a strong color, redness or rash, itching, fever, chills, burning sensations or vaginal discharge, it is time to visit the doctor to find out what is going on.

Causes of Ammonia Smell in Urine for Both Men and Women

Urine that has a strong smell is often linked with unhealthy medical conditions. These are some of the few most common reasons why your urine might smell like ammonia:

  1. High-protein Foods Consumption. Eating foods rich in protein can cause this smell, especially if you eat a lot of them. That's because the foods can lead to excess nitrogen in your body, and when that is released, it smells like ammonia.
  2. Dehydration. If you don't have enough water in your body, your urine becomes very concentrated. The urine will then smell like ammonia or otherwise have a foul odor, and the color will become darker.
  3. Holding Urine for Too Long. The longer you hold your urine, the more concentrated it will become. That's why it is important to go when you feel the urge.
  4. Sexually Transmitted Disease. Some STDs can cause a very foul smell of the urine, as well as a vaginal discharge in women that is sometimes mistaken for bad-smelling urine.
  5. Diabetes. When the body doesn't use glucose properly, it can build up in the blood. As the kidneys try to get rid of this, they produce something called ketones. Ketones are then eliminated in your urine, which can explain a foul smell.
  6. Kidney Problems. Your kidneys filter waste from your body. When they aren't working properly, those wastes can build up, and that gives your urine a distinct ammonia smell.
  7. Metabolic Disorders. Some metabolic disorders that are not under regular treatment can lead to a strong ammonia smell. Taking medications as directed can help reduce this.

More Causes of Ammonia Smell in Urine for Women

The smell is much more common in women than it is in men, and sometimes the ammonia smell can mean serious consequences for the female, particularly if she is pregnant. When a woman smells ammonia in urine during her pregnancy, it is vitally important to speak to your doctor and get a urinalysis to determine what might be wrong.

There are some other causes of the ammonia smell that can be unique to women:

  1. Menopause. When menopause occurs, the menstrual cycle stops. When this happens, the woman's body changes in several ways. The loss of beneficial vaginal flora can lead to increased risk of urinary tract infections, and that can lead to ammonia smelling urine.
  2. Bacterial Infection. Bacterial infections, including bladder infection and urinary tract infection, can become common for women thanks to the positioning of their anatomy. The closeness of the vagina, rectum and urethra mean a woman is at higher risk for these infections. Bacterial infections in the kidneys, urinary tract or bladder can all cause a concentrated ammonia smell.
  3. Not Drinking Enough Fluids during Pregnancy. When you don't drink enough, you become dehydrated. This concentrates the urine, making it smell stronger and giving it a stronger color as well. When you are pregnant and dehydrated, the effect is much more pronounced. This is a serious problem, because it indicates your child is not getting enough water.
  4. Medication and Supplements Effects during Pregnancy. Some drugs can create a smell of ammonia, or even a smell that is somewhat metallic. This is especially true during pregnancy, when mothers are usually taking several nutritional supplements. The smell might be caused by calcium, iron, or various vitamins. Fortunately, this is one reason for smelly urine that is not an indication of a problem, and it often goes away after a short period of time.

Remedies for Ammonia Smell in Urine

Even if it isn't a medical concern, it can still bother you. In that case, there are several home remedies you can try that will help that unpleasant smell diminish.

  1. Drink More Fluids. The more fluids you have in your body, especially water, the better hydrated you will be. The more hydrated you are, the less your urine will smell, and the clearer it will become. The goal is urine with no smell at all, and virtually no color.
  2. Be Careful of Your Diet. Look at the foods you are eating. Are any of them known to cause problems with an ammonia smell? Sometimes you can pinpoint the culprit, such as eating too much protein. Change your diet for a few days and see if the smell disappears.
  3. Be Careful of the Medications and Supplements. Several supplements and medications can have side effects that cause a strange odor to your urine. If your medication or supplement warns you of this on the label, or if your doctor and pharmacist aren't concerned, then things are probably just fine. But if you can't pinpoint a medication or supplement that is causing the problem, speak to your doctor.

The ammonia smell in urine is usually temporary and often has a very clear cause. But if you are concerned about the smell and can't pinpoint the reasons why, you should see a doctor to rule out anything that might be going wrong inside your body.

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