Urine of a healthy individual is usually clear, or light yellow in color and it does not have a strong odor. A change in color and odor of urine can therefore, be associated with some health conditions.
If the urine smells like ammonia, it could indicate that the concentration of ammonia and other chemical compounds in the urine have increased.
Ammonia smelling urine can be a sign of several medical conditions, some of which have been observed to be more prevalent in women. So, let's find out the common factors that can cause urine to smell like ammonia.
Causes of Ammonia Smelling Urine
DehydrationUrine in itself does not have a strong smell, unless it is concentrated. Dehydration, often causes foul-smelling urine. When you are dehydrated, the amount of water in the urine decreases, while that of ammonia and other chemicals increases, which makes the urine more concentrated, and changes its color and odor. This problem can be easily alleviated by drinking enough water.
A Diet high in ProteinAmmonia is nothing but a nitrogenous compound, and hence a high protein diet can cause the urine to smell like ammonia. Eggs, meat, and cheese, are some of the foods that are rich in protein and when these are consumed in large amounts, the excess nitrogen from the amino acids is converted to ammonia or urea and then released in the urine. Some vegetables, like asparagus can also bring a strong ammonia smell to your urine.
Infection of the Urinary TractUrinary tract infection is one of the most common causes of ammonia smelling urine in women, as their anatomy makes them more susceptible to this condition. In women, the urethra is closer to the anus and is also shorter, as compared to men. All these factors increase the risk for urinary tract infections in women. An infection of the urinary tract is usually caused by bacterial growth in the urethra and the urinary bladder. Sometimes, the infection can spread to the kidneys as well.
MenopauseMenopause is the final cessation of menstrual cycle in women, which is marked by a significant drop in the level of the hormone, estrogen. As the level of estrogen decreases in the body, a woman becomes more susceptible to urinary tract infections due to the loss of protective vaginal flora. This in turn, can produce a strong ammonia-like odor in urine. Moreover, a large majority of women gain weight during this period, and so, they start making dietary changes to control weight. This can also cause urine to smell like ammonia.
PregnancyLike menopause, pregnancy can also put a woman at a greater risk of getting infections of the urinary tract, especially kidney infections. The pregnancy hormones bring about changes in the urinary tract. For example, the hormone progesterone causes the ureter to dilate, which slows down the flow of urine through it. On the other hand, the growing fetus compresses the ureters and the bladder, hindering the flow of urine and preventing the complete emptying of the bladder. This in turn, can cause some urine to flow back to the kidneys, which is known as reflux. All these factors can increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
Kidney DamageThe kidneys are known to act like natural filters in the body that removes waste products and excess water from the bloodstream. So, wastes like urea and ammonia are also thrown out of the body by the kidneys. If the functioning of the kidneys is affected, the filtering process is impaired, which in turn can lead to foul-smelling urine.
Liver DamageFoul-smelling urine can also be a sign of liver failure. Liver diseases usually produce a musty smell in urine. As the liver is responsible for breaking down ammonia and converting it to urea, liver failure may be associated with urine that smells like ammonia.
Diabetes KetoacidosisDiabetes is characterized by an insufficient production of insulin or the failure of the body cells to respond to insulin, which is a hormone that helps the body cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream. In both the cases, the body cells cannot absorb glucose, and hence, they start using fat as a source of alternate fuel. However, this process of deriving energy from fats leaves behind the toxic compounds, known as ketones, that accumulate in the body and then eventually excreted in the urine. As a result, the urine can have a very strong and foul smell.
Other Possible CausesApart from the aforementioned conditions, foul-smelling urine can be caused by certain metabolic disorders, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the habit of holding back the urge to urinate, and intake of some medications and supplements, such as vitamin B6 supplements.
Treatment Options✔ The first measure is to increase your fluid intake. If the condition is caused by dehydration, drinking adequate quantity of water will help dilute the urine and reduce the smell.
✔ Monitor the foods you are eating. If your diet is rich in foods, which are known to produce ammonia smell in urine, then consider some changes in your diet. Once the diet is altered, it will take a few days for the condition to subside.
✔ If you have started taking any medication or supplement, then talk to your health care professional to know whether these are responsible for causing foul-smelling urine. You can increase your fluid intake to get rid of the odor.
✔ If the ammonia smelling urine is associated with a health problem, then it will subside with the treatment of the underlying condition.
So, if your urine smells like ammonia, then first consider what foods and medications you have taken recently. If you are sure that it is not associated with these factors, then consider consulting your health care provider, in order to find out the actual causes. This can ensure early diagnosis and prompt treatment, in case the unusual urine odor is associated with any medical condition.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.