Cystitis symptoms - cloudy and smelly urine

What causes cloudy and smelly urine?



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
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An introduction to cloudy and smelly urine

It is common for cystitis sufferers to notice an unusual smell or colour to their urine. Some describe the smell as particularly strong, foul or even rotten. Often this is accompanied by particularly dark or cloudy urine.

This can be both unpleasant and worrisome, but generally improves quickly once you are recovering from the bladder infection.

Why does cystitis cause cloudy or smelly urine?

Cystitis occurs when the bacterium Escherichia coli becomes too prominent in the bladder, causing an infection; this can cause the urine to become smelly and cloudy. The presence of the bacteria in the urine alters the chemical balance in the urine, changing its smell, usually to something perceived to be unpleasant.

Additionally, not drinking enough water can cause the urine to become more concentrated and smellier. For many people with cystitis, drinking enough can become a problem as they feel they have to go to the toilet too often, or it is painful to pee. However, enough water can help to reduce many problematic symptoms, such as burning when peeing, as well as flush the infection out of the body more quickly.

The bacterial build-up in the urine can also alter the appearance of your urine. This is particularly likely if your bladder is not emptying properly, and urine is stagnating in the bladder.

Often cloudy urine indicates sediment in the bladder as a result of infection, or is sometimes due to types of food that have been eaten, particularly amongst diabetics who struggle to break down sugar effectively.

Self-help, lifestyle and diet for cloudy and smelly urine

As mentioned above, drinking plenty of water is important in order to dilute the urine, reducing both odour and colour. This will also help to flush bacterial build-up and sediment out of the bladder, clearing the infection. Emptying your bladder frequently is important in preventing bacteria from settling and worsening the infection.

Certain foods and drinks can discolour your urine and change its smell. For example, asparagus is renowned for giving urine a particularly acrid smell, as can coffee. Other foods, such as refined sugar, can make your urine cloudy, while strongly coloured foods, such as beetroot, can change the hue of your pee.

Therefore, if you notice certain foods seem to trigger an unusual smell or colour in your urine, try eliminating these from your diet to see if your symptom improves.

For general diet advice, read my blog post on diet tips for cystitis.

Are there herbal remedies to help me?

Certain herbs have been used traditionally to relieve bladder problems. Treating the cystitis at the root of your urinary symptoms will give the most effective and lasting relief from these symptoms. Remedies include Uva-ursi, a herb which works specifically on the bladder, disinfecting and cleansing it. This can help to speed recovery from cystitis and the accompanying symptoms.

Additionally, cranberry is thought to prevent bacteria from being able to stick onto the wall of the bladder and colonise there, as a result preventing infection from setting in.

Read our blog for more on what the research says when it comes to Cranberry Juice for cystitis.

What about conventional medicines?

If symptoms of smelly and cloudy urine persist for more than a few days, this should be checked by a doctor. If your doctor suspects that a bacterial infection is at the root then it is likely that antibiotics will be prescribed to clear the infection. This should ensure that your symptoms quickly improve too.

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Here’s what I recommend

Emma our women's health advisor recommends Uva-ursi complex to help ease symptoms of cystitis and cranberry to maintain bladder health.

Learn more

Did you know?

Cystitis is sometimes known as ‘honeymoon cystitis’. Why? Well, during sex, bacteria can spread from the perineum to the urethral opening. The risk of developing cystitis is therefore increased depending on the frequency you have intercourse (sorry honeymooners!).

7 reasons you keep getting cystitis

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