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Old 19th May 2010, 09:15 PM   #1
andyon
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Why does my pee smell funny?

OK, I know this is my first post and the thread title is strange, but please bear with me. I promise I won't begin spewing forth about the time cube or water memories. Well, maybe I might talk a little about the time cube...

A year or so ago I noticed that my urine has a strong odor that it didn't have before, consistently--not just once and a while, and not just after eating asparagus or whatever. I went to a urologist, who said not to worry, the urine was "clean" (although he seemed very overworked and a bit rushed). I also saw my GP who said the same thing. So if nothing's wrong, that's swell, but it's hard not to be concerned. I really don't think I'm a hypochondriac, and I'm not into woo or against "western" medicine etc. I can't help but think something could be wrong, since this is a very significant change and as I said is very consistent (the odor doesn't come and go).

I'm a male in my mid-40s. I'd like to stay anonymous (I'm using a fake name). I've been checked a couple times in the last year for STDs--I don't have any. There are no other symptoms I'm aware of.

I'm not looking for medical advice here in place of seeing a professional in person--I'd just like to get some feedback and I'll gladly go to a specialist etc. Are there any doctors here who know of conditions that could cause a strong odor from urine, but would not show any problems in a standard urine test? Any specialist other than a urologist who might be good to see?

Thanks, oh wise ones of the JREF forum.
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Old 19th May 2010, 09:26 PM   #2
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My guess is it's related to something in your diet. In my case, my mid-morning to early afternoon pees smells alot like the coffee I had been drinking prior. If I've had a bit of beer the night before, I can detect a slight scent of the *high-life*.
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Old 19th May 2010, 09:29 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by gregthehammer View Post
My guess is it's related to something in your diet. In my case, my mid-morning to early afternoon pees smells alot like the coffee I had been drinking prior. If I've had a bit of beer the night before, I can detect a slight scent of the *high-life*.
Thanks for the reply. The thing is, I can't think of anything in my diet that suddenly changed--like something I never consumed before that I started having daily (again, this is not an intermittent thing, something changed, and it's consistent). I've always been a coffee drinker and moderate beer drinker...
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Old 19th May 2010, 09:52 PM   #4
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Metabolism can change rather suddenly with age, or the water supply may have become stronger in a few ions.
Remember that smell is just a chemical detection method. A few stray molecules can have a seemingly drastic consequence.
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Old 19th May 2010, 09:54 PM   #5
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Has your water intake changed, or has your frequency of urination decreased? Either one of those will cause your urine to be more concentrated and smell a bit stronger.
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Old 19th May 2010, 10:32 PM   #6
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It's possible the problem is at the other end.
Seriously, I have olfactory problems - I have both anosmia and phantosmia. I can't trust my sense of smell at all. This has been the case all my life AFAIK, but having it suddenly develop like in your case can signal other problems.
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Old 19th May 2010, 10:47 PM   #7
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Quote:
Has your water intake changed, or has your frequency of urination decreased? Either one of those will cause your urine to be more concentrated and smell a bit stronger.
I don't think so--not that I know of.
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Old 19th May 2010, 11:07 PM   #8
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Do you have independent verification that a) your pee smell changed and 2) that it actually smells funny?

As my wife and I were trying to conceive our children, I was able to do a pregnancy test with my sense of smell and her pee (before the test strips were used). I was also able to tell hours in advance of her going into labor (overall probability by chance ~0.002). No joking. I can also with good accuracy smell food and tell the ingredients. No woo here - the chemicals are there. I just recognize them. Well with pregnancy, it was the change the first time and recognition the other times.

Men go through hormonal changes in their 40s. Testosterone decreases and in some cases estrogen can significantly increase. You can find plenty of articles on this if you search the web. You could just be smelling your own hormonal changes.

Crazy? Yeh, but it's not impossible.
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Old 19th May 2010, 11:13 PM   #9
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Urine smells because of the products of sex steroid breakdown, which is why young children's urine doesn't really have that smell to it.

You may be entering the male andropause, so a drop in your levels of testosterone will alter the scent of your urine.

I am assuming you had some blood work done when you saw the urologist?
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Old 19th May 2010, 11:13 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by UncaYimmy View Post
Do you have independent verification that a) your pee smell changed and 2) that it actually smells funny?

As my wife and I were trying to conceive our children, I was able to do a pregnancy test with my sense of smell and her pee (before the test strips were used). I was also able to tell hours in advance of her going into labor (overall probability by chance ~0.002). No joking. I can also with good accuracy smell food and tell the ingredients. No woo here - the chemicals are there. I just recognize them. Well with pregnancy, it was the change the first time and recognition the other times.

Men go through hormonal changes in their 40s. Testosterone decreases and in some cases estrogen can significantly increase. You can find plenty of articles on this if you search the web. You could just be smelling your own hormonal changes.

Crazy? Yeh, but it's not impossible.

I don't have independent verification, good idea though. This'll be an interesting conversation...and I'll read up on the hormonal changes, that makes sense.
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Old 19th May 2010, 11:15 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Tatyana View Post
Urine smells because of the products of sex steroid breakdown, which is why young children's urine doesn't really have that smell to it.

You may be entering the male andropause, so a drop in your levels of testosterone will alter the scent of your urine.

I am assuming you had some blood work done when you saw the urologist?

I'm not familiar with andropause--I'll read up on it. I'm virtually certain I did have blood work done.
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Old 19th May 2010, 11:29 PM   #12
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It really depends on what it smelled like. Was it sweet? Ammonia like? Sour? Different smells indicate different things.


Oh, andropause is the male version of menopause....sort of. It's a bit more complicated than that.
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Old 20th May 2010, 12:08 AM   #13
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I'm not aware of any significant clinical problems that would manifest only as a chronic change in the odour of urine. There are some well described conditions, such as Maple Syrup Urine Disease or Fish odour syndrome that have characteristic smells, but these are congenital errors of metabolism - you have to be born with them. Something that has been there for a year and caused no other symptoms is unlikely to be a problem.
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Old 20th May 2010, 12:44 AM   #14
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when i was a drinker, if i was on a bender my urine would start to smell like corn chips. weird.
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Old 20th May 2010, 01:02 AM   #15
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I get the coffee whizzes something fierce. That and asparagus, but that's universal.
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Old 20th May 2010, 01:30 AM   #16
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Do you like asparagus? A lot?
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Old 20th May 2010, 01:41 AM   #17
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My whizz definitely smells different after I’ve had a large “energy drink” (e.g. Monster, Rockstar). A testament to how much of the sooperspeshul ingredients in those things just go right through your system, I’m sure.

Back on topic: You could always get a second opinion. But if that also checks out fine then I wouldn’t really worry about it anymore. As other probably more knowledgeable members have pointed out, odd-smelling urine isn’t necessarily a sign of any kind of illness or anything harmful in your environment – just something different.
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Old 20th May 2010, 02:07 AM   #18
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I think you have your answer from the two health care professionals you have already visited.

Taking advice from (amongst others) a man who claims he can smell pregnancy may not be your best option going forward.
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Old 20th May 2010, 07:12 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by JoeyDonuts View Post
That and asparagus, but that's universal.
My understanding is that it is not universal, just common. Let me see . . .

http://www.wisegeek.com/why-does-asp...mell-funny.htm
Quote:
Studies conducted on the "asparagus urine" phenomenon (aren't you glad you didn't volunteer!) indicate that roughly 40 to 50 percent of those tested developed the distinctive odor. Surprisingly enough, there is also a segment of the population who cannot smell the sulphurous fumes of asparagus-laced urine. It is believed that both the generation of the odoriferous urine and the ability to smell it are based on genetics. Only those with a certain gene can break down the chemicals inside the asparagus into their smelly components, and only those with the proper gene can smell the results of that chemical breakdown.
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Old 20th May 2010, 09:43 AM   #20
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You're supposed to flush it, not keep it in a jar.
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Old 20th May 2010, 10:14 AM   #21
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I rarely eat asparagus and never have energy drinks. Thanks for all the responses. The one below was especially helpful.


Originally Posted by Criticalist View Post
I'm not aware of any significant clinical problems that would manifest only as a chronic change in the odour of urine. There are some well described conditions, such as Maple Syrup Urine Disease[/url] or Fish odour syndrome[/url] that have characteristic smells, but these are congenital errors of metabolism - you have to be born with them. Something that has been there for a year and caused no other symptoms is unlikely to be a problem.
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Old 20th May 2010, 10:25 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by andyon View Post
I rarely eat asparagus and never have energy drinks. Thanks for all the responses. The one below was especially helpful.
You don't have maple syrup urine disease, it doesn't present at your age, it causes mental retardation if undiagnosed, and there has been a screening programme for this genetic disorder almost since the time the assay was developed in the 1960s.

I also doubt you have fish malodour syndrome, it also probably would have presented by now, and in other body fluids.

Last edited by Tatyana; 20th May 2010 at 10:55 AM.
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Old 20th May 2010, 10:36 AM   #23
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I think you guys are focusing on the wrong part of the OP. You seem to be more concerned with the smell, but the relevant question is, "how funny does the pee smell?"

I mean, is it mid 90's Chris Rock funny, Robbin Williams trying too hard funny, super-hot-chick funny (we laugh no matter how boring her story about her cat is), athlete funny (look! something vaguely resembling a personality, laugh), Obama funny (what does it mean if we don't laugh?), ostensibly humorous femenist rant funny, or Glenn Beck/William Shatner unintentionally funny?

Once we nail that down we'll know more about your diseased bladder.
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Old 20th May 2010, 11:00 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by TraneWreck View Post
I think you guys are focusing on the wrong part of the OP. You seem to be more concerned with the smell, but the relevant question is, "how funny does the pee smell?"

I mean, is it mid 90's Chris Rock funny, Robbin Williams trying too hard funny, super-hot-chick funny (we laugh no matter how boring her story about her cat is), athlete funny (look! something vaguely resembling a personality, laugh), Obama funny (what does it mean if we don't laugh?), ostensibly humorous femenist rant funny, or Glenn Beck/William Shatner unintentionally funny?

Once we nail that down we'll know more about your diseased bladder.
My urine is definitely William Shatner funny. However, other than Leonard Nimoy telling me that it is not logical, DeForest Kelley was unfortunately not around to provide me a concrete diagnosis.
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Old 20th May 2010, 11:01 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Personal Grudge View Post
My urine is definitely William Shatner funny. However, other than Leonard Nimoy telling me that it is not logical, DeForest Kelley was unfortunately not around to provide me a concrete diagnosis.
However, George Takei was around to provide an independent analysis of the smell of my urine... his response, not surprisingly, was "OHH MY!"
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Old 20th May 2010, 12:15 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by TraneWreck View Post
I think you guys are focusing on the wrong part of the OP. You seem to be more concerned with the smell, but the relevant question is, "how funny does the pee smell?"

I mean, is it mid 90's Chris Rock funny, Robbin Williams trying too hard funny, super-hot-chick funny (we laugh no matter how boring her story about her cat is), athlete funny (look! something vaguely resembling a personality, laugh), Obama funny (what does it mean if we don't laugh?), ostensibly humorous femenist rant funny, or Glenn Beck/William Shatner unintentionally funny?

Once we nail that down we'll know more about your diseased bladder.
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Old 20th May 2010, 02:33 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by bluesjnr View Post
I think you have your answer from the two health care professionals you have already visited.

Taking advice from (amongst others) a man who claims he can smell pregnancy may not be your best option going forward.
Are you denying that it's possible to use my chemical detector to detect a chemical that is most certainly present in the urine? A chemical that my genome knows how to create? A chemical that is directly related to reproduction and thus a key element in evolution?

Last edited by Uncayimmy; 20th May 2010 at 03:09 PM.
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Old 20th May 2010, 02:48 PM   #28
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I usually find that if I can smell my pee I am not standing up. Try standing up for a while. That should fix the problem.
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Old 20th May 2010, 03:01 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by godofpie View Post
I usually find that if I can smell my pee I am not standing up. Try standing up for a while. That should fix the problem.
I dunno. Sometimes I can smell my pee standing up. It isn't a foul smell, just different. Sightly musty/fruity. Can't for the life of me work out what it is that causes it, but life goes on. If I'm sitting down then I'm drunk, and not capable of noticing much anyway.

*note to self - keep dietary records to check against weird pee smell.
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Old 20th May 2010, 05:24 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by UncaYimmy View Post
Are you denying that it's possible to use my chemical detector to detect a chemical that is most certainly present in the urine? A chemical that my genome knows how to create? A chemical that is directly related to reproduction and thus a key element in evolution?
I'm denying nothing, I am extremely sceptical of your claim though. I will say that you had a 50% chance of being right under any circumstances. You had prior knowledge of the subject and were in a position to observe her over a period of time and were involved in the possibility of her being pregnant in the first place. There is probably a smidgen of confirmation bias in there, assuming your wife didn't get pregnant at the 1st go both times. The dice were loaded in your favour UY.

I seriously doubt your wife walked in with a sample and said

"Give that a smell will you and let me know what you think?"

Do you think that you could smell human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in a random sample of urine?

Could you, do you think, by smell alone, differentiate between male urine and the urine of a pregnant woman?

I think you have to validate this claim UY, otherwise you are talking pish

Next you'll be telling me that you can somehow get vision from feeling of the foetus (I'm joking).

Sorry for the derail.
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Old 20th May 2010, 08:32 PM   #31
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Ketones have a very distinctive smell.

(I've been on Atkins more than once, the goal of which is to get you into controlled ketosis. Ketones become present in quantity in your urine and are easily detected.)
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Old 20th May 2010, 08:50 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Complexity View Post
Ketones have a very distinctive smell.....
Doc said your urine was "clean". If it was dipsticked for urinalysis then keytones would usually show if present. Sugar puffs make pee smell odd.

Last edited by AgeGap; 20th May 2010 at 08:51 PM.
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Old 20th May 2010, 08:55 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by bluesjnr View Post
I'm denying nothing, I am extremely sceptical of your claim though. I will say that you had a 50% chance of being right under any circumstances. You had prior knowledge of the subject and were in a position to observe her over a period of time and were involved in the possibility of her being pregnant in the first place. There is probably a smidgen of confirmation bias in there, assuming your wife didn't get pregnant at the 1st go both times. The dice were loaded in your favour UY.

I seriously doubt your wife walked in with a sample and said

"Give that a smell will you and let me know what you think?"

Do you think that you could smell human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in a random sample of urine?

Could you, do you think, by smell alone, differentiate between male urine and the urine of a pregnant woman?

I think you have to validate this claim UY, otherwise you are talking pish

Next you'll be telling me that you can somehow get vision from feeling of the foetus (I'm joking).

Sorry for the derail.
I have to say I agree. I think it's a lot more likely that something subconsciously tipped you (UncaY) off and you imagined the smell difference.

Your very conviction that you ABSOLUTELY did makes me wonder, too. A more...appropriate?... skeptical take should be "It seemed that I was able to, and I can think of no other explanations at this time."

(This from a woman who is pretty sure her first pregnancy symptom [both times - 2 kids] was her 125 lb dog acting really weirdly towards her, climbing in her lap for the first time in years, making her wonder why her breasts were sore. My inner non-skeptic is convinced the dog knew something was up, because he could smell it. )
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Old 20th May 2010, 09:02 PM   #34
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IIRC, when I was in the military, they told us a salty smell to our urine meant dehydration.
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Old 20th May 2010, 10:22 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
I have to say I agree. ...
... (This from a woman who is pretty sure her first pregnancy symptom [both times - 2 kids] was her 125 lb dog acting really weirdly towards her, climbing in her lap for the first time in years, making her wonder why her breasts were sore. My inner non-skeptic is convinced the dog knew something was up, because he could smell it. )
My husband's cat--she barely tolerated me normally--was all lovey with me while I was pregnant. She would climb up on me, 'milk tread' on my chest or tummy, sometimes later in my pregnancy would even find a button on my sweater and suckle it. This lasted until about 2 weeks after delivery, when she went back to barely tolerating me unless Himself was working late and she really, really wanted attention.

I know of nothing else that, in the twelve or so years I knew this cat, made her affectionate towards me. But while I was breeding, she L O V E D me! I was Mom!!! This behavior began before I even knew I was PG, too.

Just had to jump in with my anecdotal confirmation, MK
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Last edited by Miss_Kitt; 20th May 2010 at 10:25 PM.
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Old 21st May 2010, 12:28 AM   #36
Travis
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I swear that if I'm getting sick I can start to smell ammonia. I don't know what that's about but it usually doesn't steer me wrong.
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Old 21st May 2010, 01:43 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by bluesjnr View Post
I'm denying nothing, I am extremely sceptical of your claim though. I will say that you had a 50% chance of being right under any circumstances. You had prior knowledge of the subject and were in a position to observe her over a period of time and were involved in the possibility of her being pregnant in the first place. There is probably a smidgen of confirmation bias in there, assuming your wife didn't get pregnant at the 1st go both times. The dice were loaded in your favour UY.

I seriously doubt your wife walked in with a sample and said

"Give that a smell will you and let me know what you think?"

Do you think that you could smell human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in a random sample of urine?

Could you, do you think, by smell alone, differentiate between male urine and the urine of a pregnant woman?

I think you have to validate this claim UY, otherwise you are talking pish

Next you'll be telling me that you can somehow get vision from feeling of the foetus (I'm joking).

Sorry for the derail.
You forget that I'm a skeptic at heart and in practice. My advice was commensurate with my experience, which was properly analyzed at the time and since.

We decided to have children, so my wife started doing all the ovulation tracking. The first month we attempted it, I noticed an odd smell in her pee. The next day she took a pregnancy test and was pregnant. Interesting, I thought to myself. She lost the baby at about 8 weeks.

Second time around (after a break) same deal with ovulation tracking and what not. First month, no smell, not pregnant. Second month, same thing. Third month, same thing. Fourth month, same funny smell and she's pregnant.

Within a few days of her delivery date she asks me if her pee smells. We laugh. No smell for a few days. Then I smelled a similar smell as during early pregnancy but definitely not the same as the last few days. It's hard to describe, which is the way smells tend to work. She was asleep already, so I sent her an e-mail telling her that she was going to deliver soon (no postdiction from this guy). She woke up around midnight starting her labor.

Second kid, same routine with ovulation tracking. First two months, no smell, no pregnancy. Third month, same smell, pregnant. She was induced for the second one, so no data there.

That's nine coin flips. Actually, more if you count the days leading up to labor where I didn't smell and she didn't go into labor. Sticking with nine, that about a 0.002 p-value. It's ~0.004 if you toss out the labor thing.

As for your silly little games about what I can or cannot smell, I am very familiar with the smells of my wife, as I'm sure most spouses are. I could have simply been smelling a difference. Obviously the hormones are in the urine, which is why home pregnancy tests have you pee on a stick. I could have detected the hormone, or I could have detected a change in her urine as an effect of the hormone.

Why are you inventing claims about detecting hCG or differentiating between genders in random urine samples when I simply advised a guy that it's merely possible that the change he detected was due to a hormonal change in his body and not necessarily the hormone itself?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This is not an extraordinary claim. It's entirely plausible and within the known realms of science. The change in urine smell during pregnancy is well known.

http://www.helium.com/items/1125789-...ring-pregnancy
http://www.pregnancy-info.net/forums...odor_question/
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Does_the_u...arly_pregnancy
http://www.babysnark.com/early-pregn...y-symptoms.asp
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/in...1093723AAkx4Ew

Your skepticism is a good thing. Keep working at it. You're making excellent progress. Just do some basic research next time and don't extrapolate a simple claim to back up an "it's possible" suggestion into some wild claim the person didn't make.
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Old 21st May 2010, 02:09 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Your very conviction that you ABSOLUTELY did makes me wonder, too. A more...appropriate?... skeptical take should be "It seemed that I was able to, and I can think of no other explanations at this time."
Tell me, Kelly, where did I use the word absolutely? I relayed what happened and gave a p-value, from which you should have deduced that I had 9 trials.

As for what "tipped me off" the burden is on you to come up with things that could have tipped me off. You can't just wave your hands and say it was a "lot more likely" to be something else without actually providing that something else. Pee smells. Hormones are excreted in pee. Hormones affect the smell of pee. These are all well documented facts (hit PubMed if you don't believe me).

The reality is that the most likely explanation is that I was able to actually smell something and associate it with pregnancy. Mice and other mammals change their behavior based on the estrous cycle simply by smelling the urine of other types of animals (think mice reacting to cow urine).

So, really, we have two proven possible mechanisms: Detecting the hormone itself or detecting a change in smell due to the hormones. Right now, you've got squat other than your assumption that these very same hormones altered my wife's behavior enough that I didn't consciously notice it but instead had an olfactory hallucination that was accurate 9 out of 9 times.

Nice work.
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Old 21st May 2010, 04:11 AM   #39
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You sure your toilet isn't just smelly?
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Old 21st May 2010, 04:17 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Complexity View Post
Ketones have a very distinctive smell.

(I've been on Atkins more than once, the goal of which is to get you into controlled ketosis. Ketones become present in quantity in your urine and are easily detected.)
If you are excreting any significant amount of ketones, you are seriously unwell.

In a ketogenic diet, your body starts to use the ketone bodies as a source of energy, I think they slot into glycolysis around acetaldehyde-3-phosphate.

If you used ketone sticks, you would find that you would have 'trace', and likely no indication of ketones in your urine.

Whatever the scent was, it wasn't ketones.
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