Dr. Shilpa Saxena is an integrative physician, not to mention a friend and a seriously smart person.

So here’s her answer to the perennial question: why does my pee smell after I eat asparagus? You might be surprised by what you read!

Around our home, it’s just not Spring until that tender, sweet vegetable that is asparagus pokes up through the newly warming earth. For some, those delicate tips usher in a season of fresh dining and outdoor grilling, but for others the thought of the dreaded ‘asparagus-induced urine odor’ forces them to pass on our Spring delight. Why does asparagus cause smelly urine? It’s a very common question that has sparked many a wives’ tale….so, if you’ve ever wondered, here’s the real story about asparagus and smelly urine.

Asparagus contains a unique acid, appropriately named ‘asparagusic acid’, found only in this delicious vegetable. When asparagus gets processed for elimination, the asparagusic acid is broken down into 6 different sulfur-containing compounds with varying intensities and types of smells ranging from sweet to pungent. The way these compounds are used by the body dictates the predominant odor that we may experience. This is why some people experience a pungent, ammonia type odor while a small, yet lucky few, enjoy a more perfumed fragrance. It also seems that the younger the asparagus, the more asparagusic acid, and therefore, the more intense the odor.

Recent research has proven that asparagus urine odor is universal among us humans, however, our ability to smell the odor is determined by our genes! Believe it or not, one such study has concluded that only 22% of the population has the gene necessary to smell any of the compounds present in urine. So, if you’re one of the lucky 22%, you’ve identified a very unique talent, albeit it one you may wish to leave off your resume. Either way, asparagus is a great source of iron, folic acid, thiamine (Vitamin B1) and dietary fiber….so eat up and maybe hold your nose!!

Shilpa P. Saxena, M.D. is a Family Practice Physician specializing in Functional Medicine in the Tampa, Florida area. Visit her at www.MyLivingWellness.com.

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