Ketosis is increased ketones in the body. When these begin to circulate through the body, they appear in different fluids, including urine, giving them that characteristic smell.
This problem is common in poorly controlled diabetes cases when someone with diabetes has an infection and in patients who follow a ketogenic diet, but is that smell in the urine harmless?
In this FastlyHealarticle, we explain everything you need to know about ketosis and its consequences on the body, the causes of urine smelling of acetone, and the treatment you should follow.
Table of Contents
Ketone bodies generate the smell of acetone in urine.
Usually, the body’s primary source of energy is sugar or carbohydrates. Sometimes, instead of carbohydrates, fat stores are used. This is in cases like, for example:
- Failures in metabolism.
- Inadequate compensation in cases of diabetes.
- Increased stress hormones.
- Low carbohydrate diets.
When this happens, the production of ketone bodies results. When ketone bodies increase in the body, they begin to circulate through the bloodstream. Thus, their characteristic odor can be noticed in urine, sweat, breath, and many other symptoms.
Symptoms of ketosis
When ketone bodies increase in the body, the smell of acetone appears in different body fluids. In addition, other series of symptoms and disorders may occur, such as:
- Increased thirst.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath.
- Abdominal pain.
- Tiredness or weakness
- Loss of muscle mass.
- Arrhythmia or disturbances in the electrical conduction of the heart.
- Pancreatic inflammation.
- Vaginal irritation and foul smell in the genital area.
Acetone-smelling urine from poorly controlled diabetes
One of the complications of poorly controlled diabetes is diabetic ketoacidosis.
In diabetes, there is pancreatic exhaustion due to excess carbohydrate consumption, among other disorders. Consequently, the pancreas cannot produce the amount of insulin required to metabolize the carbohydrates that continue to be consumed. Thus, the body must obtain energy from fats when ketone bodies appear in the blood.
Suppose this situation persists for an extended period. In that case, the disease is poorly controlled, poor eating habits continue, or the person does not exercise, likely, ketone bodies increase so much that they lead to acidification of the blood. In that case, one speaks of diabetic ketoacidosis.
Diabetic ketoacidosis presents with many of the symptoms described in the previous section. This is a medical emergency. Therefore, if your blood glucose levels are high and you smell acetone in your urine, do not delay your professional consultation.
Acute illnesses that can cause urine that smells of acetone
If someone with chronic diabetes has an acute illness that complicates their diabetes, they may also notice a strange smell in their urine. It is prevalent for this to occur with a respiratory or urinary infection.
In these cases, it may also appear:
- General discomfort.
- Burning when urinating.
- Pain in the chest or abdomen.
However, in some cases, there are not too many symptoms. This is when a small change, such as the smell of urine, can be a significant warning.
It is essential in these cases to control sugar levels since if they are high, it is essential to consult a medical professional. That way, you can avoid more severe complications.
Acetone-smelling urine caused by stress
Both in the acute illnesses that we have just described and in the event of stress, there is an increase in two hormones: cortisol and adrenaline. These have the opposite effect on insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise.
When this occurs in a person with diabetes or insulin resistance, it is possible that:
- Increase blood glucose levels.
- Insulin cannot process as much sugar.
- Fats must be used for energy.
- Increase ketone bodies.
Thus, in case of stress, the smell of acetone can also appear in the urine, and frequently, it can be a symptom that allows diagnosing the existence of metabolic problems.
The keto diet can cause urine that smells like acetone.
Many think that the keto or ketogenic diet is harmless. If it were, it would not generate as many metabolic alterations. The keto diet causes too rapid weight loss at the cost of obtaining energy from unusual sources: fat and muscle mass.
Consequently, ketone bodies also increase, which begin to circulate throughout the body. This is called ketosis.
With ketosis, ketone bodies will appear in the urine and sweat and circulate through the brain, pancreas, and kidneys, generating alterations in their wake. It is a mistake to think that this has no consequences.
Risks of ketosis
Beyond the symptoms considered “minor,” such as bad breath or bad smell in the urine, long-term sustained ketosis generates:
- Pancreatic disorders that can cause significant inflammation are known as pancreatitis.
- Significant weakening of the tissues, with loss of part of them. This can lead to muscle weakness, lack of energy, decreased body defenses, and an increased risk of osteoporosis.
- Accumulation of toxins from excessive protein consumption. Some of the best known are putrescine and cadaverine, which have been shown to have an incidence in the production of cancer.
- Mental confusion, headache, and dizziness: these symptoms result from ketone bodies circulating through the brain, altering its normal functioning.
In diabetic ketoacidosis from poorly compensated diabetes, severe symptoms will likely appear more quickly. That is why proper handling of this situation can even save your life.
Treating urine that smells of acetone
As a first tip, don’t minimize this symptom. Whether or not you have diabetes, your body warns you that something is wrong.
If you have discomfort, headaches, fever, chills, or any other obvious acute discomfort, you must go to a health center. This should also be done if you have diabetes, have insulin resistance, or have direct relatives who suffer from it. You can measure your blood sugar and try to lower it at home if you know how to do it.
It is also essential to hydrate properly. If you do not know how to lower your blood sugar, have never suffered from something similar, or are unable to lower your blood glucose, you should immediately see a medical professional.
Among the measures that can be carried out in the medical center you go to are:
- Talk to you, examine you.
- Control blood glucose figures.
- Electrolyte replacement. They are the minerals your body needs.
- Place medication to lower blood sugar, such as insulin.
If you are on a ketogenic diet, you should rethink what you do. It is not a desirable way to lose weight because you are subjecting your whole body to an unnecessary demand that will generate significant imbalances and weakness in the short or long term. Beyond the fact that it is currently a worldwide trend, your body must accompany you all your life, and if you take care of it, you will avoid significant problems in the future.
This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to Urine with the smell of acetone: causes and treatment, we recommend that you enter our Endocrine System category.
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.