Urology of Greater Atlanta

Why Does My Pee Smell Like Popcorn?

Have you ever noticed that your urine smells like popcorn? Urine typically smells mild, but many factors — from dehydration and drinking too much coffee to health issues and medications — can affect the way your urine smells.

A bowl of popcorn in a clear bowl on a wooden table.
In many cases, strong-smelling urine isn’t an issue and the odor returns to normal quickly.

However, if you have an untreated underlying health issue that’s causing an abnormal smell, you may need to speak to your trusted urologist to find out what’s causing the odor and get the treatment you need.

Our team of specialists at Urology of Greater Atlanta is ready to help. Contact one of our convenient locations in Georgia today.

Common Reasons Why Urine Smells Like Popcorn

As mentioned, there are plenty of reasons why your urine smells sweet or like popcorn.

You might also notice sour odors that remind you of something you ate or drank. For example, if you drink too much coffee, your pee could temporarily smell like that beloved morning pick-me-up.

Some of the most common reasons why this occurs are listed below.

Dehydration

Ammonia is one of the components of urine. When you’re dehydrated, your urine has less water in it, thus leading to a higher and more fragrant concentration of ammonia. Your urine may also look darker than usual if you’re dehydrated.

Pregnancy

It’s common for pregnant women to notice a change in their urine smell.

The change could be caused by various factors, including pregnancy hormones such as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and dietary changes that affect the vitamins, minerals, and proteins in your diet. Pregnant women are also more prone to UTIs, as the growing fetus can compress the bladder.

Additionally, women who develop gestational diabetes — a temporary diabetes that emerges during the second trimester of pregnancy — may notice a change in the smell of their urine.

A woman with a confused look wondering why her pee smells like popcorn.

Diet

You’ve probably noticed or heard that asparagus can make your urine smell abnormal. Other foods and beverages that can affect your urine’s odor include Brussels sprouts, onion, coffee, cumin, garlic, and pineapple. Excessive alcohol consumption can also affect the scent of your urine.

Additionally, if you follow a high protein diet, your body relies on protein and stored fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. This increases the production of ketones, which can make your pee smell sweet.

Medications

Additionally, certain medications can affect the way your pee smells. For example, if you’ve ever taken over-the-counter cold and flu medicine, you might notice an abnormal odor when you urinate.

The medications often prescribed for UTIs, such as sulfonamide antibiotics or drugs used to treat diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, can cause a foul odor. Even some supplements, such as vitamins B and D, can affect how your urine smells.

Diabetes

A popcorn smell or sweet-smelling urine is often an early indicator of untreated or undiagnosed diabetes. Diabetes affects your blood sugar levels and causes high ketone levels. The excess sugar and ketones make their way into your urine, resulting in that tell-tale popcorn smell.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to ketoacidosis, a life-threatening metabolic state that occurs when you have excess ketones in your blood. Ketoacidosis is dangerous because it makes your blood too acidic, which can interfere with essential body functions.

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Urinary Tract Infections

UTIs, including bladder infections and conditions like cystitis, can lead to an abnormal urine smell. The bacteria that causes UTIs and bladder infections can cause a foul odor.

Additionally, the medications used to treat these health issues can cause a smell that’s often compared to rotten eggs or sulfur.

Genetic Issues

While less common, genetic issues such as maple syrup urine disease and foetor hepaticus can make your urine smell like popcorn.

A man smelling coffee beans.

Smelly urine may not necessarily be a sign that you are experiencing a health problem. Many factors can affect the way your urine smells, including the food, beverages, vitamins, and supplements you consume.

If you notice that your urine has an abnormal odor, pay attention to how long it smells that way and if you have any other symptoms.

When Should I Talk to a Doctor about My Urine’s Odor?

You should make an appointment with our trusted doctors at Urology of Greater Atlanta if your pee has an abnormal smell like popcorn, maple syrup, or another sweet odor for two days or more.

You should also make an appointment if you experience additional symptoms, including:

How Is the Cause of My Urine Odor Diagnosed?

Your doctor will begin by reviewing your symptoms and medical history. They may order additional tests to identify the underlying cause of your popcorn scented urine and other symptoms, such as urinalysis, cystoscopy, and scans and imaging tests like ultrasound, CT scans, or MRIs.

Your urologist might also order blood tests to evaluate your hormone and ketone levels, and check for signs of diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

Possible Treatments for Urine That Smells Like Popcorn (Or Something Else)

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of your sweet-smelling pee. You might need to simply drink more water or adjust your diet to restore a more mild scent to your liquid waste.

However, if you have a medical condition such as diabetes, your doctor may recommend lifestyle adjustments and medication to regulate your blood sugar levels and restore your metabolic health.

Additionally, if you have a UTI or bladder infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight off the infection.

If you notice anything abnormal about your urination habits, from the way your urine smells to increased frequency, pain, or even blood, call Urology of Greater Atlanta to schedule a consultation today. 

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