Ammonia Smell in Urine: Causes and What to Do About It

Ammonia Smell in Urine - Causes and What to Do
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A strong smell of ammonia in urine is usually caused when there is a high concentration of waste products in the urine. Urine mainly consists of water and usually doesn’t have a strong odor to it. However, certain foods, not drinking enough water, or an infection can cause an ammonia smell in urine.

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Most of the time, there is nothing to worry about if occasionally your pee has a smell of ammonia. This could be caused by something as simple as dehydration or eating asparagus. However, serious medical conditions like a urinary tract infection, liver infection, or kidney disease can cause your urine to emit a foul smell. Along with the strong-smelling urine, an infection may cause other changes in your urine. For example, your urine may become a milky cloudy color, cause pain when peeing, and you may have a fever.

In this article, I will explore the various reasons why urine can give off a strong ammonia odor. I will also look at when the symptoms of smelly urine are serious enough to see a doctor.

Reasons why Urine Smells of Ammonia

First of all, let’s look at some of the less serious reasons why your urine may smell of ammonia. After that, I will examine the more serious causes of an ammonia-like smell in urine that may require visiting a doctor.

Dehydration

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration which can cause a smell of ammonia to come from your urine. The odor is produced by chemicals in your urine which become very concentrated due to a lack of water. You may also notice more bubbles in your urine when you pee.

Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD explains that urine is made from water, salt, and chemicals. Normal urine should be a pale yellow to gold color. If you are dehydrated, your urine becomes very concentrated and can give off a strong ammonia smell. A lack of water will also turn your pee a dark honey or brown color.1

Diet

If you get a whiff of ammonia from your pee, it could be because of your diet. Certain foods can cause your pee to become smelly and give off an ammonia odor. Apart from foods affecting the smell of your urine, certain medications and vitamins can also cause changes in urine color and smell.

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The Cleveland Clinic reports that asparagus can cause an ammonia smell in urine. Asparagus can also give your pee a green tinge to it. Also, vitamin B-6 or foods containing large amounts of vitamin B-6 can also make your urine have a strong odor.2

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic also say that foods high in protein can also increase the acid properties of urine causing it to have an ammonia-like smell.3

Usually, there is nothing to worry about if your urine smells of ammonia after eating certain foods. The strong odor should disappear when you stop consuming these foods.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones or bladder stones can make your pee smell of ammonia. Kidney stones are small mineral deposits that can cause a lot of pain if they move.

According to doctors from the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, kidney stones can also block the tubes that urine passes through. This can cause a lot of pain and also lead to a urinary tract infection. The doctors say that the urinary stones can cause an ammonia-like smell from your urine.4

You can get rid of kidney stones naturally and prevent new ones forming by drinking lemon water. The acidic properties of lemon help to dissolve the mineral deposits. Also increasing your water intake helps to flush out your kidneys.

A study published in the journal Urological Research found that lemon juice can help to dissolve kidney stones and is a good alternative to potassium citrate.5

To help dissolve kidney stones and get rid of the ammonia smell from your urine, Dr. Louise Chang on WebMD recommends the following home recipe:6

  • Add half a cup of concentrated lemon juice to 7 cups of water.
  • Drink throughout the day to help get rid of urinary stones and prevent new ones forming.

Urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause your urine to have a foul smell with ammonia-like odor. Bacteria can affect the bladder and urinary tract, causing an infection that will cause pain when you pee. A UTI can also cause leukocytes (white blood cells) to be in urine as well as nitrites in urine and cloudy urine. Your doctor may also look at the number of squamous epithelial cells as part of the urine analysis.

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that if bacteria enter the urinary tract, the infection can affect the smell of the urine. This can make the urine smell very bad and turn it cloudy or bloody.7

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The Georgia Highlands College say that bacterial activity in the urine will cause an ammonia-like odor from the urine.8

It’s important to treat a UTI at the first sign of its symptoms. There are many natural remedies for a UTI that can help prevent a mild infection becoming worse. For example, apple cider vinegar helps to destroy the growth of bacteria and prevent the infection getting worse.

Pregnancy

Pregnant women have higher chances of having an ammonia smell in urine. The reason is that pregnant women are at increased risk of contracting a urinary tract infection (UTI) which can cause the urine to have a foul smell with ammonia-like odor.

The Scholars Journal of Applied Medical Sciences reports that: “The biological alterations of pregnancy can influence women to UTI”.17

Kidney disease

A kidney disease can affect the concentration of chemicals in your urine and cause it to smell like ammonia.

According to researchers from the Mayo Clinic, your kidneys help to regulate the amount of ammonium in the urine. If a person’s urine is too acidic, they could be at risk of developing kidney stones.3

Also, Dr. Anuja Shah from the David Geffen School of Medicine, says that kidney dysfunction can cause protein and bacteria to be detected in the urine. This can cause ammonia to be released in the urine and increase pH levels.9

It’s important to keep your kidneys in good health, avoid common habits that damage your kidneys and be aware of the first signs of kidney disease. Drinking plenty of water, consuming ginger and turmeric, and drinking dandelion tea are all some of the best foods and herbs to cleanse your kidneys and help cleanse toxins from your kidneys naturally.

Liver disease

The liver also plays a role in removing toxins from the body and helping digest food properly. Any infection or disease in your liver will result in higher amounts of ammonia in your urine causing it to have a strong smell.

PubMed Health explains that ammonia is produced as the liver breaks down carbohydrates and fats. The liver then converts ammonia into urea which eventually passes out through the urine. However, if the liver is damaged, it can’t convert ammonia properly and your urine will give off an ammonia odor.10

Dr. Gregory Thompson on WebMD says that ammonia levels will rise in the blood and urine if the liver isn’t working properly. To check for this, doctors will perform a blood test to check for levels of ammonia.11

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Its important to maintain your liver in top condition, avoid these common habits that damage your liver and be familiar with the early signs of liver damage. You can use this powerful mixture for cleansing your liver which contains only 2 ingredients, consume these foods and herbs to cleanse your liver, and surprisingly even consume coffee in moderation as current research findings suggest.

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause your urine to smell like ammonia because of a high number of ketones in the bloodstream. Ketones build up in the liver when there is not enough insulin to be used for fuel in the body. High levels of ketones can indicate that your diabetes medication needs adjusting.

Clinical research has shown that diabetic patients are at risk of ketones building up in the liver. If this happens, there will be a notable smell of ammonia from the urine.12

Managing your diabetes can help to reduce the ammonia smell in your urine. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may have to take insulin or other medication, however, in some cases, doctors recommend controlling diabetes by diet.

You can also take some steps to prevent type 2 diabetes and you should be aware of the early signs of diabetes.

How to Get Rid of Ammonia Smell from Urine

There are many ways to get rid of the ammonia smell from urine. Of course, if the smelly pee is caused by an underlying health issue, you should treat that to get rid of the ammonia smell.

Drink plenty of water

Dehydration can have a serious negative impact on your body. If you notice that you have dark-colored urine that smells of ammonia, you should drink plenty of water to help get rid of the smell.

Doctors from WebMD recommend drinking six to eight 8-oz. glasses of water every day.13

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Apple cider vinegar

You can drink raw unprocessed apple cider vinegar (ACV) to help get rid of the ammonia-like smell from urine. Apple cider vinegar is a great home remedy to get rid of kidney stones naturally and help prevent urinary tract infections. In fact, research has shown that human kidney stones dissolve in acetic acid – the main component of apple cider vinegar.14

How to use:

To use apple cider vinegar to treat urinary problems that are causing an ammonia smell in your urine, this is what you should do:

  • Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar in a glass of water.
  • Drink frequently throughout the day to help clear up any urinary infection and dissolve stones that are causing discomfort.

Baking soda and water

Drinking baking soda and water can help to clear any urinary tract infection that is causing urine to emit an ammonia odor. Baking soda is also an effective natural treatment for getting rid of kidney stones.

The journal Reviews in Urology found that baking soda can help to reduce uric acid and dissolve urinary stones. The research found that taking 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda in water 3 to 4 times a day was an effective remedy for urinary stones.15

Baking soda can also help to relieve the symptoms of a urinary tract infection and get rid of nitrates in urine.

How to use:

To use baking soda to get rid of an ammonia smell from your urine, you should do the following:

  • Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda in a glass of water.
  • Drink a glass of baking soda and water 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Take for up to 2 days.
  • If your symptoms persist, then please visit your doctor.

Because of its high sodium content, consuming baking soda mixed with water may not be for everyone. Therefore, if you have a history of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, swollen ankles or feet, or are on a reduced salt diet, you should talk to your doctor before taking baking soda with water on a regular basis.

Also baking soda can decrease the effectiveness of certain drugs so talk to your doctor before consuming baking soda water if you take medications.

Ammonia Smell from Urine – When to See a Doctor

Because your urine can tell a lot about your health, any changes in the color or smell of your urine should be checked out by a doctor.

Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD recommends visiting your doctor if you think that your pee isn’t normal and there is a strong smell to it. This is especially so if the change lasts for more than a couple of days. Some of the symptoms of a serious urinary infection are:16

  • Pain in your back or side.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Feeling thirsty even though you are drinking plenty of water.
  • Fever.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources
  1. WebMD. The truth about urine.
  2. ClevelandClinic. Changes in urine.
  3. MayoMedicalLabrotories. Ammonium, random, urine.
  4. NHS. Smelly urine.
  5. Urol Res. 2008 Dec;36(6):313-7.
  6. WebMD. Lemonade helps kidney stones.
  7. MedicineNet. Urine odor.
  8. Highlands. Complete
  9. MerckManuals. Evaluation of the renal patient.
  10. NCBI. How does the liver work?
  11. WebMD. Ammonia.
  12. Kidney Int. 1980 Jan;17(1):57-65.
  13. WebMD. Drinking enough water.
  14. J Mass Spectrom. 2011 Mar;46(3):313-9.
  15. Rev Urol. 2007 Winter; 9(1): 17–27.
  16. WebMD. The truth about urine.
  17. The Scholars Journal of Applied Medical Sciences. Prevalence of the urinary tract infections among pregnant women.
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