Sweat smells like ammonia: How to get rid of it?

Why Does My Sweat Smell Like Ammonia
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mehvish Khan

Key Takeaways

    1. Sweat can smell like ammonia or sulfur and can be seen as foamy for various reasons, including diet, stress, extraneous physical activity, Liver problems, or any serious underlying condition, including kidney problems, indigestion, diabetes, or hepatitis. 
    2. There is no specification of urine with a foul smell in males or females except the menstrual hormonal changes that can affect only women. Due to the fluctuations in hormonal levels, your pee can smell like ammonia. It will eventually go on its own when your menstrual cycle ends. 
    3. Only diagnosing the underlying condition will lead you to the prevention or treatment of the smell from your urine. It will go on its own if it’s due to hormonal changes during periods. It will need treatment if it is due to any serious medical condition. It’s good to seek medical attention for the correct diagnosis and treatment regimens at the right time.

    Overview

    A person’s sweat can smell like ammonia for various reasons, including diet changes, health conditions, medications, lifestyle changes, and exercise. The reason is that sweating primarily aims to reduce body temperature. When sweat evaporates, it leaves a cooling effect on the body, the basic process of thermoregulation built into our DNA by default. But you must be wondering why it has to smell like ammonia. Or why does my sweat smell like urine?

    Keep reading because this blog will explain the causes, remedies, and treatment plans for removing the ammonia-like smell from your sweat.

    How do I get rid of the ammonia smell in my sweat?

    Let’s move toward the potential solutions to eliminating the ammonia smell in sweat. Here are some of the options you can try: 

    The ammonia smell in sweat can be discomforting. A qualified professional can diagnose the cause.

    Have a balanced diet

    While everybody is hopping on the ketogenic diet bandwagon, we want you to pause and try adding essential carbohydrates if your sweat smells like ammonia. Try adding some cereals, whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fruits instead of just taking in a protein-rich diet. 

    Consuming a lot of meat specifically makes the diet full of proteins that cause your urine to smell like cat pee or ammonia.

    Filter out bad smells with water

    Water is the best filtering solution for detoxification, even for bad bodily smells. Drink a lot of water to regularly remove any lousy smell-causing toxins or bacteria from your body. Water also helps fight body odor that comes off after a protein-rich diet. The more water there is, the more ammonia is excreted via urine and less in sweat. So fill up your water bottles and get rid of sweaty smells. Also, even if sweat comes, it will be diluted and odorless due to more hydration.

    Personal hygiene

    To feel and smell good, it is crucial to cater to your hygiene needs daily. It includes daily bathing, using an antibacterial body wash or soap that is the cherry on top, keeping your underarms and pubic hair shaved to prevent bacterial growth in hot weather, especially wearing loose cotton clothing so that your skin doesn’t feel suffocated and remains dry. Wash your clothes regularly to stay bacteria-free. Use after-bath antifungal creams or powders to smell good and remain healthy. 

    Deodorants and antiperspirants

    They work as an additional layer to avoid ammonia-like sweat as deo helps solve the odor problem, and antiperspirants minimize sweating by blocking sweat glands. This ultimately limits bacterial growth and foul odor. These products contain aluminum salts that prevent sweating, like aluminum chloride hexahydrate. 

    Say goodbye to stress

    Stop stressing and stop sweating. High stress increases the amount of toxins in your body and thus increases ammonia, which leaches out in sweat. Live in the present and break free from the worries of the past and future to keep your body healthy and happy. 

    What are the potential causes of sweat smelling like ammonia?

    The ammonia-like smell is a sign your body is telling you something is wrong. It is important to notice small changes and read between the lines to understand those changes and act before the consequences become worse. Here is the list of possible causes why your sweat smells like ammonia.

    Get professional advice to get rid of ammonia smell in your sweat.

    Exercise 

    Exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle; however, if you notice an intense ammonia-like smell after a workout, then it indicates that your muscles are being broken down. What it means is if you are excessively exercising, and the available energy sources (carbohydrates) have been used, the body starts breaking down stored sources of energy (proteins) into urea, an ammonia compound.

    The reason behind smell is that the body converts proteins into urea faster than the kidneys can convert urea to urine. Excess is leached out in a sweat and causes an unwanted ammonia smell. It can be prevented by eating more carbs before and after a workout to avoid running out of primary energy sources (carbohydrates).

    Diet 

    Another crucial cause of the ammonia smell in sweat is our diet. Whatever we take in as diet measures, what will come off. That’s why it is essential to optimize your diet from time to time and notice all the significant changes occurring due to small changes in your diet.

    As discussed above, a diet rich in protein and low in carbohydrates can cause ammonia to smell like sweat. It is essential to filter the amounts of proteins and carbohydrates you take. Therefore, it is necessary to balance the quantities because not every body type is fit for ketogenic diets, and there must be a check and balance. 

    Some sources of a protein-rich diet include meat and dairy products like chicken, eggs, and milk. These products also produce smells, as dairy products produce trimethylamine (which has a strong fishy smell) when digested. It doesn’t end here. Many other types of diets can cause an ammonia-like odor, including some spices like cumin seeds and vegetables like onion, garlic, etc., which can be a source of ammonia in sweat once digested.

    Dehydration

    Whether on a diet or not, working out or not, our body needs water to stay hydrated and run the normal biological processes of our life. However, dehydration can cause more concentrated sweat and a particular ammonia/sulfur-like smell as the body needs to get rid of ammonia one way or the other, so when water is not enough to pass it through urine, it is leached out in sweat. 

    Health Conditions 

    Health issues can also cause ammonia to smell in a sweat if your diet and physical activity are expected. Let’s analyze those health conditions that can cause ammonia, like the smell in your sweat; however, it is best to consult a doctor to understand the situation better. 

    Kidney Disease

    The story behind kidney disease and ammonia smell is that if you are suffering from kidney disease, it becomes difficult to convert ammonia to urine and filter it out of the body. In that case, the excess ammonia is excreted out of the body with sweat. This condition is called uremia and is a symptom of kidney disease.

    Diabetes

    Diabetes is a complex condition that can affect the functioning of many different processes and organs. One such example is diabetic ketoacidosis, which occurs when your body lacks enough insulin to digest glucose and instead starts digesting fats to keep the life processes going and burning large amounts of fat releases by-products such as ketones, making your sweat smell like ammonia or your breath fruity. If the level of ketones increases excessively, it can cause acidic blood, which can be life-threatening as minor changes in pH can cause severe consequences in the body. 

    Hyperhidrosis

    It is a condition where a person sweats too much after physical activity or in hot temperatures. It has two types, including primary hyperhidrosis, which affects sweat areas like underarms, feet, and hands but is not due to an underlying health condition. However, secondary hyperhidrosis is due to another health condition and is a symptom of medicine’s side effects or disease. Excessive sweating comes from eccrine glands, and the excess gathers on the skin to cause the smell because of bacterial growth in that buildup. Bacteria release that foul vinegar-like odor. If the condition worsens or is accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, itching, muscle cramps, or weight loss, then get a consultation from a doctor. 

    Liver Disease

    In liver disease, the ammonia smell in sweat, breath, stool, and urine is familiar because the liver plays a role in toxin detoxification. In liver failure conditions, the toxins cannot be filtered and release an ammonia smell instead. Consult your healthcare provider to have a clear picture. 

    Trichomycosis

    Another cause of the ammonia-like smell in sweat is Trichomycosis, which affects pubic hairs, including underarms, due to bacterial (Corynebacterium) growth. Trichomycosis causes red, black, or yellow nodules to stick to hairs. 

    Trimethylaminuria

    It is a rare genetic disease in which, due to faulty genes from one of the parents, the individual cannot break down nasty smell-causing compounds, i.e., trimethylamine (TMA). This compound smells fish-like and is released in sweat, urine, or breath. TMA is released by gut microbiota, and so treatment includes taking activated charcoal supplements that break down TMA 

    Stress and Anxiety

    You might have noticed sweating heavily when you’re anxious, right? It’s normal to experience that often, but continuous stress for prolonged periods can activate apocrine glands in your underarms or private parts. These glands release a thick sweat with higher levels of proteins and lipids, which, upon release, mixes with bacteria, and that’s why the smell is like ammonia. 

    Hormonal Changes

    During hormonal changes for both men and women, an ammonia-like solid smell can develop in sweat, like during menstruation, puberty, menopause, or pregnancy. In menopause, due to decreased estrogen levels, hot flashes can also occur, which are accompanied by heavy sweating and body odor smells like ammonia. 

    When to Consult a Doctor?

    Suppose you experience persistent signs and symptoms like a strong ammonia smell, blood or foam in the urine, rashes, sores, or blisters. In that case, it indicates an underlying health condition like diabetes, kidney disease, or fungal infection. 

    A qualified professional can help you diagnose the cause of the ammonia smell in sweat so you can get the right treatment.

    FAQs

    Why do my pants smell like urine?

    It is a sign that your body is under stress, and the amount of ammonia in it has exceeded the average threshold. Thus, your urine smells strong, and your groin is too. Try drinking a lot of water to avoid concentrated urine and eat a balanced diet to detoxify your body.

    Does ketosis smell like ammonia?

    Ketosis is a process in which your body consumes fats as an energy source instead of glucose, thus releasing ketones as a by-product. One such ketone is acetone, which gives off a fruity smell, like nail polish remover with a hint of ammonia. However, the intensity of the ammonia-like fragrance depends upon diet, hydration levels, and health conditions that vary from person to person.

    Why do I smell ammonia after exercise?

    It can happen when you are on a ketogenic diet where the body utilizes proteins and fats as fuel or energy sources instead of carbohydrates, thus releasing ammonia as a side product, which leaches out in urine and sweat. 

    Why do my armpits smell like onions?

    It happens when your sweat mixes up with the bacteria on your skin, which causes an onion-like smell due to a chemical reaction between toxins in your sweat and bacteria releasing a sulfur smell due to the generation of thioalcohol. 

    What infections smell like ammonia?

    Infections like UTI, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, liver disease, trichomycosis, and trimethylaminuria can cause a significant smell like ammonia in your sweat. It’s good to get medical attention from your healthcare provider.

    Should I be concerned if my sweat smells like ammonia?

    Yes. There are either dietary intake issues, kidney or liver problems, or hormonal changes are taking place that are causing it. Keep a good eye on your diet and all the changes you observe besides smelling like ammonia or bleach. Getting medical attention from your healthcare provider at the right time will help you get the diagnosis and treatment at the right time.

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