Why does asparagus make your pee smell?

Why does asparagus make your pee smell?

Ever wonder why your pee smells funny after eating asparagus? You’re not alone. Curious minds have pondered the topic for centuries.

Modern day researchers have found that the cause for funny smelling urine appears to be asparagusic acid, a compound high in sulfur and abundant in asparagus. When your body digests asparagus and breaks down asparagusic acid, it releases volatile components that are responsible for urine’s foul smell. This smell can develop within 15-30 minutes of eating asparagus. But don’t let the side effects stop you from eating asparagus. This delectable vegetable is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that are healthy for your body – even if they aren’t pleasing to the nose.

According to Dr. Fahad Chaus, from Advocate Medical Group Urology in Elgin, Ill., other foods that cause the release of sulfurous compounds during digestion are brussels sprouts, garlic and onions. Coffee can also add a distinct smell.

One study explored why not everyone is able to detect the distinct smell of those sulfurous compounds. It seems that some gene mutations affect how we perceive smells.

The study also found that women were less likely to smell an unusual odor after eating asparagus than men. Yet women identified smells more accurately and consistently than men. Researchers suggest that the difference could be that some women may have felt uncomfortable reporting that they could smell their own urine. Another possibility is that women are less likely to notice urine smells because of their posture during urination. Researchers suggest that additional studies are necessary to puzzle out various factors in perception of odor.

As a urologist, Dr. Chaus often sees patients that are nervous about discussing their symptoms. He finds that explaining things clearly and reassuring them that lots of other people have experienced the same things helps them feel comfortable talking about topics that can be embarrassing.

He says it’s important to let your doctor know if you’ve noticed anything unusual about your urine because it can reveal a lot about your health. “The smell of asparagus in urine is harmless, but other smells can indicate health problems. A sweet smell could indicate diabetes, a foul or fishy smell could mean a urinary tract infection and a strong smell of ammonia could mean you’re dehydrated.”

Dr. Chaus says the sweet smell comes from extra sugar in the urine and the fishy smell comes from an increase in nitrites. The ammonia smell occurs due to less water in the urine but the same amount of ammonia – so the ammonia smell seems stronger.

If you have questions or notice anything peculiar about your urine, contact your doctor.

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About the Author

Jo Linsley
Jo Linsley

Jo Linsley, a health enews contributor, is a digital content strategist at Advocate Aurora Health. With decades of experience in writing and editing, she continues to aspire to concise and inspiring writing. She also enjoys knitting and singing as creative outlets and for their meditative qualities.