“Why Does My Pee Smell Like Popcorn?” An Expert Doctor Lists 5 Causes

Updated: Jul. 11, 2024

A doctor reveals how, just like the color of urine, urine that smells like popcorn can hint at a serious condition or simply a shift in your hydration or diet habits.

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We typically don’t think much about our basic physiological functions until something goes wrong or takes us by surprise. For example, it’s considered normal to pee up to 10 times per day, which you’ll barely clock unless you experience discomfort or frequent urgency.

But something as common as your stop in the bathroom can be an indicator of your body’s wellness and needs, as the Mayo Clinic explains that urine is primarily a mixture of water and waste products you’ve consumed that your kidneys have then filtered. The composition and balance of this waste can significantly influence the smell of your pee.

Here’s what the smell of your urine can tell you: When you’re properly hydrated, your urine contains a majority of water with minimal waste, typically resulting in little to no odor. However, when you’ve ingested less fluid to make your urine more concentrated with waste, this can produce a stronger smell. Urine that’s heavier on waste can range from an ammonia-like scent to a sweet smell—or, if you’ve ever eaten asparagus, you know how strongly that can come through minutes or hours later.

Another relatively common experience is for urine to smell like popcorn. Ahead, get physician insights on five common reasons urine can smell like popcorn, and when it’s advisable to seek medical advice.

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Why does my pee smell like popcorn? A doctor explains

1. Nutrition habits

Certain foods can lead your urine to take on a popcorn-like scent, a phenomenon you might observe particularly if you’re following the ketogenic diet. This diet, which emphasizes high fat and low carbohydrate intake, puts your body into a state of ketosis, which burns fat instead of carbs for energy.

During this process, your body produces ketones. Ketones are chemicals made in your liver when there isn’t enough insulin to turn sugar into energy. Ketones are expelled through your urine and can cause that distinctive popcorn smell.

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2. Dehydration

Dehydration can cause urine to develop a more potent odor, sometimes resembling the smell of popcorn. This happens when there isn’t enough water in the body, causing urine to become more saturated with waste products and enhancing its scent.

Increasing your water intake can help resolve this by diluting your urine and diminishing the strong odor.

Here’s How Much Water You Really Need in a Day, with Scientists’ Latest Wisdom

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3. Diabetes

A popcorn-like scent in your urine could also be a sign of diabetes because high blood sugar levels can trigger the production of ketones. If you notice this distinctive popcorn smell in your urine, it’s important to be aware of other potential diabetes symptoms, such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, and fatigue.

Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider if these symptoms appear, as untreated diabetes can lead to a dangerous condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

Additionally, if you are already managing diabetes and detect a popcorn smell in your urine, this could indicate a need to reevaluate and adjust your treatment plan with your healthcare provider.

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4. Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can occasionally alter the odor of urine, giving it a popcorn-like scent. If you detect this unusual smell along with symptoms like burning during urination, more frequent urination, or blood in the urine, it could suggest a UTI, signaling that it’s time to consult your healthcare provider.

Why Does It Burn When I Pee? 8 Things It Could Mean

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5. Medications and supplements

Certain medications and vitamin supplements can change the way your urine smells. Over-the-counter cold and flu medications, antibiotics, diabetes medications, and supplements like vitamins B and D can affect urine odor. If you’ve recently started a new medication or supplement and notice a change in the smell of your urine, this could be the reason.

It might be surprising to detect a popcorn-like scent in your urine, but this can be an important signal from your body. Pay attention to any additional symptoms that occur with this smell, and if it persists, contact your doctor.

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