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Thread: Ammonia smell

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    Ammonia smell

    I've read various things about why someone might start smelling ammonia. Often times it seems it is because of a low carb diet. Could it also occur from a high calorie expenditure, with moderate-high carbs(400+g)? I'm interested in any and all of the scientific reasons why someone might smell ammonia, either after a meal or during exercise.

    I ask because I often smell ammonia in my nose either after a meal or during strenuous exercise (weights as well as cardio). I probably eat at the minimum 400g of carbs a day..





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    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post
    I've read various things about why someone might start smelling ammonia. Often times it seems it is because of a low carb diet. Could it also occur from a high calorie expenditure, with moderate-high carbs(400+g)? I'm interested in any and all of the scientific reasons why someone might smell ammonia, either after a meal or during exercise.

    I ask because I often smell ammonia in my nose either after a meal or during strenuous exercise (weights as well as cardio). I probably eat at the minimum 400g of carbs a day..

    If this topic is deemed not to belong here, go ahead and move it.
    When I tried keto diets, I had it constantly.
    On low carb diets I had it occasionally.
    Never on moderate to high carb diets.
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    What's your carb intake and what else are you eating before exercise? How's your fluid intake? All your organs AOK? Intensity and duration of exercise?

    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ammonia.htm
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    Originally Posted by in10city View Post
    What's your carb intake and what else are you eating before exercise? How's your fluid intake? All your organs AOK? Intensity and duration of exercise?

    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ammonia.htm
    I drink just as much fluid as I always have before I started smelling ammonia, at least 16oz with each meal usually.

    For example today (in terms of carbs) I had 2 cups of oats, a cup of blueberries for breakfast, an apple and a cup of oats at like 12, at 2pm I had around 16oz of sweet potatoes. After the sweet potatoes I started smelling ammonia.

    The only activity I've done so far today is ride my back back and forth to/from school, which was maybe 6 miles total (at a super easy pace)
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    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post
    I drink just as much fluid as I always have before I started smelling ammonia, at least 16oz with each meal usually.

    For example today (in terms of carbs) I had 2 cups of oats, a cup of blueberries for breakfast, an apple and a cup of oats at like 12, at 2pm I had around 16oz of sweet potatoes. After the sweet potatoes I started smelling ammonia.

    The only activity I've done so far today is ride my back back and forth to/from school, which was maybe 6 miles total (at a super easy pace)
    Unless you are eating an excessive amount of protein, I'd see a doctor because randomly smelling it after eating just ain't normal. Something like uremia would be worst case.
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    I don't have the papers with me right now, but I did get some tests done that mentioned something about "ammonia toxicity" in my urine. I'm pretty sure a couple of things have come up abnormal with my kidneys as well. None of my doctors seemed to concerned about it though.
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    Originally Posted by GregT View Post
    I think that may be part of it.. but the smell isn't from my body or sweat. Only I can smell it, it seems like it is in my nose. And I get it often when I am no where near sweating.
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    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post
    I think that may be part of it.. but the smell isn't from my body or sweat. Only I can smell it, it seems like it is in my nose. And I get it often when I am no where near sweating.
    Are we talking 'pee' or body in general?
    Is it associated with specific foods (eg: garlic can often cause people to smell funny.... cumin can do the same. Asparagus can make urine 'off')?
    Any signs of other illness (eg: intestinal upsets)?
    Any signs or family history of metabolic abnormalities (diabetes esp. so, but also odd inborn errors of metabolism)?
    Supplements/ Meds you are taking?
    Can ANYONE else smell it?
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    Originally Posted by Emma-Leigh View Post
    Are we talking 'pee' or body in general?
    Is it associated with specific foods (eg: garlic can often cause people to smell funny.... cumin can do the same. Asparagus can make urine 'off')?
    Any signs of other illness (eg: intestinal upsets)?
    Any signs or family history of metabolic abnormalities (diabetes esp. so, but also odd inborn errors of metabolism)?
    Supplements/ Meds you are taking?
    Can ANYONE else smell it?
    1) No
    2) Nope
    3) Nope, don't notice any thing else at the same time
    4) Nope
    5) No
    6) nope
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    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post
    1) No
    2) Nope
    3) Nope, don't notice any thing else at the same time
    4) Nope
    5) No
    6) nope
    With > 400g carbs/ day... and if your fat intake is adequate.... It is hard to believe that you would be defaulting to amino-acid metabolism for fuel... Not without an underlying disease state... And if NO ONE else can smell it - this decreases the likelihood too...

    So - You should try to clarify if there is actually *a smell* or not.
    But after that, if there IS a smell (for you) my immediate 'first point of call' options would be:

    1. You could have a health concern you are unaware of ( ie: get your BSL checked just to make sure glucose handling is appropriate... get yourself checked for underlying digestive disease - sometimes people with gastric ulcers/ helicobacter infection can taste/ smell ammonia )

    2. you could be reacting to something you are eating - so change foods around and see if it makes a difference...

    3. consider increasing fats... if it IS the case that you have some odd abnormality in glucose disposal and/or amino-acid metabolism leading to increased ammonia/by-product production you might be able to 'bypass' this by defaulting back to FA as a more readily available fuel...

    3. Sinus infection

    4. You are, infact, experiencing olfactory hallucinations and are either going crazy... or having temperal lobe seizures ( )
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    Originally Posted by Emma-Leigh View Post
    With > 400g carbs/ day... and if your fat intake is adequate.... It is hard to believe that you would be defaulting to amino-acid metabolism for fuel... Not without an underlying disease state... And if NO ONE else can smell it - this decreases the likelihood too...

    So - You should try to clarify if there is actually *a smell* or not.
    But after that, if there IS a smell (for you) my immediate 'first point of call' options would be:

    1. You could have a health concern you are unaware of ( ie: get your BSL checked just to make sure glucose handling is appropriate... get yourself checked for underlying digestive disease - sometimes people with gastric ulcers/ helicobacter infection can taste/ smell ammonia )

    2. you could be reacting to something you are eating - so change foods around and see if it makes a difference...

    3. consider increasing fats... if it IS the case that you have some odd abnormality in glucose disposal and/or amino-acid metabolism leading to increased ammonia/by-product production you might be able to 'bypass' this by defaulting back to FA as a more readily available fuel...

    3. Sinus infection

    4. You are, infact, experiencing olfactory hallucinations and are either going crazy... or having temperal lobe seizures ( )
    lol #4 made me laugh. Thanks emma.

    I've gotten my BSL checked in the past... I know on the last one I had breakfast before getting bloodwork done, and my BSL was (well Glucose) was 62. Which I thought was wierd to be that low in non-fasted state (~1 hr after oats,eggs)

    #3 I was thinking might be the case.. do you have any more information about these? How would I go about determining this? I eat pretty high fat diet already, but I can always eat more.


    Is it possible that my muscle glycogen is constantly at a very low state? And I am only maintaining this low state with my diet, despite a relatively high carbohydrate intake? I am fairly active

    Could it be because of excess fiber? I don't take any kind of fiber supplement, but do eat a lot of whole foods. I don't think I eat THAT much though..
    BTW my BUN: has been consistently high (27-37 in the past 8 months)
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    I was thinking of picking up some ketostix.. or whatever they're called and seeing what happens. Do you think this could tell me anything?
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    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post
    lol #4 made me laugh. Thanks emma.
    (if you can't find another reason for it.... might not be something too far out of left field...)

    I've gotten my BSL checked in the past... I know on the last one I had breakfast before getting bloodwork done, and my BSL was (well Glucose) was 62. Which I thought was wierd to be that low in non-fasted state (~1 hr after oats,eggs)
    Converting over to Aussie terms.... About a 3.5.... T'is a touch low for a random sample. Esp so close to eating... although what you ate wasn't exactly going to 'spike' your blood levels and being young/ fit/ active/ shredded person usually = very sensitive to insulin and good glucose disposal (thus food ---> partitioned / used pretty quickly and easily). But it is something you should keep an eye on and if you were to start to dip under about 2.5-3, esp. when fed (about a 40-50 I think??) then you should certainly get looking further....
    (there are a bunch of things to look at - and most of which are so very rare that you would be bloody unlucky to have them.... but they are pretty icky if you do have them so you need to rule them out.... insulinoma, specific types of pit. tumours, addisons dz.... hmmm.... liver failure can sometimes do it <-- you haven't noticed yourself turning yellow lately have you.... ).....

    However -> IF it IS the case that you are experiencing olfactory changes... AND you have low BGL.... AND there are other things going on with your hormones/ body/ health THEN I would suggest you go and get seen by specialists. Maybe look into pit. issues (base of brain things) --> as these can be linked (growths in bottom of skull can affect your olfactory nerves/ inputs).

    Have you had a head CT/ MRI?

    #3 I was thinking might be the case.. do you have any more information about these? How would I go about determining this? I eat pretty high fat diet already, but I can always eat more.
    DM would be the number one to rule out in your age group (although unlikely because of low random BG)... If you have low BGL then you really should be looking into the opposite of DM (insulinoma).

    The others things are +++++++ rare.... And you would have probably noticed/ been picked up as a kid.... Either that or developed significant neurological disease along the way and be unable to do anything by drool by this age....

    If you were to google/wiki: inborn errors of metabolism you'll likely pick up some stuff.

    (ps -> reason why I asked about supplements is that high levels of choline in your diet can do it (although you usually get more of a 'fish' smell ) so just double check your diet/ supplements to see if there is anything that could be playing a role there).

    Is it possible that my muscle glycogen is constantly at a very low state? And I am only maintaining this low state with my diet, despite a relatively high carbohydrate intake? I am fairly active
    hmmmm...... Yes and no... If you AREEEE extremely active then POSSIBLY.... But I doubt it if you are hitting 400g carbs and you have a higher fat diet..... Also - If no one else can smell it... unlikely again... usually people ooze 'smell' (pee/ sweat/ breath etc).

    You could swap around your diet and see if it helps?
    - 7-8g/ pound carbs (esp if you are doing endurance stuff - so about 500-600g)...
    - Aim for a minimum of 0.5 x weight in fat (85g)... Or 30-35% total cal intake...
    -Then protein to between 1-1.25g per pound then up your fat and carbs....
    That would probably take you up to near on 4000 cals....

    Could it be because of excess fiber? I don't take any kind of fiber supplement, but do eat a lot of whole foods. I don't think I eat THAT much though..
    Not that I know of... But I might not know...
    Hmmm.... maybe if said fibre was from garlic... in which case... you got to eat less garlic.

    BTW my BUN: has been consistently high (27-37 in the past 8 months)
    First thought/most likely: High protein diet ===> high BUN...
    Second thought/less likely: Kidney issues ===> what is your creatinine doing?
    Third thought/ unlikely: Inborn errors of metabolism

    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post
    I was thinking of picking up some ketostix.. or whatever they're called and seeing what happens. Do you think this could tell me anything?
    It would tell you if you have ketones in your urine.... that'd be about it....
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    Originally Posted by Emma-Leigh View Post
    (if you can't find another reason for it.... might not be something too far out of left field...)


    Converting over to Aussie terms.... About a 3.5.... T'is a touch low for a random sample. Esp so close to eating... although what you ate wasn't exactly going to 'spike' your blood levels and being young/ fit/ active/ shredded person usually = very sensitive to insulin and good glucose disposal (thus food ---> partitioned / used pretty quickly and easily). But it is something you should keep an eye on and if you were to start to dip under about 2.5-3, esp. when fed (about a 40-50 I think??) then you should certainly get looking further....
    (there are a bunch of things to look at - and most of which are so very rare that you would be bloody unlucky to have them.... but they are pretty icky if you do have them so you need to rule them out.... insulinoma, specific types of pit. tumours, addisons dz.... hmmm.... liver failure can sometimes do it <-- you haven't noticed yourself turning yellow lately have you.... ).....

    However -> IF it IS the case that you are experiencing olfactory changes... AND you have low BGL.... AND there are other things going on with your hormones/ body/ health THEN I would suggest you go and get seen by specialists. Maybe look into pit. issues (base of brain things) --> as these can be linked (growths in bottom of skull can affect your olfactory nerves/ inputs).

    Have you had a head CT/ MRI?
    I have been diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma, they said it's a small cyst (although it's solid, inside the pituitary). It's very small (3x5mm I believe) and none of the specialist i've seen seem to be concerned about it.

    I'm starting to think that is the reason for more then just my abnormally low testosterone..

    As far as nutrition/diet goes... On day's I do cardio I always eat upwards of 500g carbs, with at least 150g fat, around 200-220g protein. So plenty of fat in there, even on days I don't do long rides I eat that much fat.



    Originally Posted by Emma-Leigh View Post
    First thought/most likely: High protein diet ===> high BUN...
    Second thought/less likely: Kidney issues ===> what is your creatinine doing?
    Third thought/ unlikely: Inborn errors of metabolism
    I wouldn't consider my diet that high in protein really, it could be lower of course. My creatinine has been within normal ranges. So my BUN/Creatinine ratio is high
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    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post
    I have been diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma, they said it's a small cyst (although it's solid, inside the pituitary). It's very small (3x5mm I believe) and none of the specialist i've seen seem to be concerned about it.

    I'm starting to think that is the reason for more then just my abnormally low testosterone..
    If the specialists have looked at your scans/ results and have felt that it is not of a size to be concerned over/ and that it is not secreting hormones that could be causing issues (eg: prolactin) then this is probably the case. Most pit. ademona's that small are actually 'silent' (just sit around doing 'nothing' until you die) - they are usually just incidental findings...

    So you might find some of your issues stem from your ungodly low BF% + your ^^^ exercise level.

    As far as nutrition/diet goes... On day's I do cardio I always eat upwards of 500g carbs, with at least 150g fat, around 200-220g protein. So plenty of fat in there, even on days I don't do long rides I eat that much fat.

    I wouldn't consider my diet that high in protein really, it could be lower of course. My creatinine has been within normal ranges. So my BUN/Creatinine ratio is high
    1. Your diet is high in protein in comparison to 'recommended' amounts
    2. If creatinine is ok, then your kidneys are likely ok and once again high BUN would probably = high protein diet (t'is also seen to increase post exercise... and in pregnancy ).
    3. If BUN increases, BUN: creatinine ratio increases
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    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post
    I think that may be part of it.. but the smell isn't from my body or sweat. Only I can smell it, it seems like it is in my nose. And I get it often when I am no where near sweating.
    Interesting... You know, this might sound far fetch to you, but you do not have an ammonia sense of smell per se. Rather, it is pH. Maybe your problem has to do with pulmonary ventilation? IDK Just an idea. Do you have any kind of issue regarding your breathing? You may also have some rare problem with your sense of smell.

    The more I read this, the more I am inclined to think that you might have an issue with pH or smell per se. If it continues, I suggest you go to a really good doctor, and have him check you...

    The work I did for my MS was respiration physiology. We used ammonia to change the pH of the chemoreceptors in the animal's lung. They actually respond to changes in pH because CO2 normally changes the pH. They are a type of CO2 receptor. But my advisor had discovered that they had these receptors that also respond to the rate of change of pH, and he mentioned to me some odd story about WWII refuggees or something, and he said that when they where in these CO2 chambers or some sort of thing like that, that when they came out of the HIGH CO2 environment they said they smelled ammonia, but that was just an account.. My advisor then told me, he thought eureka! because the reason they smell ammonia is because they associate that smell with ammonia but its really there nose chemoreceptors responding to an increase in pH.

    Hope the story made sense.

    Bottom line: see a good doctor. a smart one. that would be my suggestion...
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    Originally Posted by reefpicker View Post
    Interesting... You know, this might sound far fetch to you, but you do not have an ammonia sense of smell per se. Rather, it is pH. Maybe your problem has to do with pulmonary ventilation? IDK Just an idea. Do you have any kind of issue regarding your breathing? You may also have some rare problem with your sense of smell.

    The more I read this, the more I am inclined to think that you might have an issue with pH or smell per se. If it continues, I suggest you go to a really good doctor, and have him check you...

    The work I did for my MS was respiration physiology. We used ammonia to change the pH of the chemoreceptors in the animal's lung. They actually respond to changes in pH because CO2 normally changes the pH. They are a type of CO2 receptor. But my advisor had discovered that they had these receptors that also respond to the rate of change of pH, and he mentioned to me some odd story about WWII refuggees or something, and he said that when they where in these CO2 chambers or some sort of thing like that, that when they came out of the HIGH CO2 environment they said they smelled ammonia, but that was just an account.. My advisor then told me, he thought eureka! because the reason they smell ammonia is because they associate that smell with ammonia but its really there nose chemoreceptors responding to an increase in pH.

    Hope the story made sense.

    Bottom line: see a good doctor. a smart one. that would be my suggestion...
    Well, the higher your metabolism/BMR is, the more CO2 you output right? From what you just said I was thinking maybe when I start smelling "ammonia" or at least what I perceive as ammonia, it is really just a lot of CO2, because my BMR has raised to a very high level (during exercise or post-exercise/meal) Does that make any sense?
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    Originally Posted by Emma-Leigh View Post
    If the specialists have looked at your scans/ results and have felt that it is not of a size to be concerned over/ and that it is not secreting hormones that could be causing issues (eg: prolactin) then this is probably the case. Most pit. ademona's that small are actually 'silent' (just sit around doing 'nothing' until you die) - they are usually just incidental findings...

    So you might find some of your issues stem from your ungodly low BF% + your ^^^ exercise level.
    hmm alright, well. I am gonna take the next week very easy, attempt to eat more food and hopefully raise my BF%. It's gonna be snowy and cold so I won't even be tempted to go cycling outside. I'm just gonna hit the weights with a decreased load.

    Thanks for your input everyone.. All these issues make me pretty depressed.
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    1. Check renal function (BUN/Cr)
    2. Reduce protein intake
    3. Follow your pituitary microadenoma (endocrine function and imaging
    4. Get checked for H.Pylori

    Could be a number of other things as well.
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    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post
    Well, the higher your metabolism/BMR is, the more CO2 you output right? From what you just said I was thinking maybe when I start smelling "ammonia" or at least what I perceive as ammonia, it is really just a lot of CO2, because my BMR has raised to a very high level (during exercise or post-exercise/meal) Does that make any sense?
    ammonia smell = absence of CO2

    Exercise = Increase ventilation =>

    stop exercise but still elevated ventilation = low pCO2

    Eating should not cause anything, but as you eat certain things and they are metabolized, your pCO2 also changes, however this is a slower rate of change that should not be detectable. So, my theory goes out the window.

    But the idea that the "smell" itself may be some sort of pH disturbance (most likely in your olfactory system) is still possible.

    But, since you have an underlying pathology (pituitary adenoma), you have to consider possible ramifications. Personally, I see this as unlikely, since the closest structure that could be affected by it is the optic nerve... but IDK....

    This specialty (olfactory reception) is rare. A friend of mind who is partially anosmic used to go to a dr. in DC for it. He could not smell some things, and some things just smelled differently to him (paranosmic?). Anyway, the fact is you would have to talk to a specialist, and specialist here is an understatement

    The olfactory system is, just to throw in a science nugget here, from an information-encoding perspective, one of the most complex and lesser known of the bodies sensory systems. Add pheromones into the mix, and you have a fringe-like science (LOL) right there....

    We do not know what we smell and we barely understand how we learn what roses smell like and why they are different from other flower smells....
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    I wonder if you just think no one else can smell it?

    Maybe it is coming from your body, as I do see now you have a very low BF.

    You should let someone else confirm this. I know.. It sounds gross.. But its either that or you can just try to smell your own clothes after you go to the gym... (OK, it is a bit gross but...)

    Try upping your carb intake to 2 or 3 x and wait a week and see if that helps (?).

    Or go with my other suggestion.
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    Originally Posted by reefpicker View Post
    I wonder if you just think no one else can smell it?

    Maybe it is coming from your body, as I do see now you have a very low BF.

    You should let someone else confirm this. I know.. It sounds gross.. But its either that or you can just try to smell your own clothes after you go to the gym... (OK, it is a bit gross but...)

    Try upping your carb intake to 2 or 3 x and wait a week and see if that helps (?).

    Or go with my other suggestion.
    Thanks for all your help and input man, I'm trying to eat more carbs at the moment.

    I have tried asking my mom to "smell me" when I was living at home, while I smelled the ammonia. She said she didn't smell anything.
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    Originally Posted by Holyspokes View Post

    I have tried asking my mom to "smell me".
    is it me or isn't that the most embarrassing thing to ask to someone? LOL At least your mom won't care.... It would be bad if you had to ask your roommate or a gym bud!
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    Originally Posted by GregT View Post
    Makes sense. A lot of times when I go to drop a towel in the sweaty towel basket at the gym, the smell of ammonia rises up out of the basket and I used to wonder why.
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    Originally Posted by HerveDuchemin View Post
    Makes sense. A lot of times when I go to drop a towel in the sweaty towel basket at the gym, the smell of ammonia rises up out of the basket and I used to wonder why.
    That sounds nice but it can't possibly take place everywhere in your skin. no? You need urease, which comes from bacteria. Maybe under your armpits and places that you have hair? IDK But you need the bacteria... Maybe some people have it and some do not?
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    I don't know man, I went to get on my bike to ride to class today, and I get a huge wiff of it as soon as I start pedaling, then after like 30 seconds it goes away.
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    When eating alot of meat it puts more nitrogen in your system, because of the amino acids. If your on a Keto diet you need to regulate your pH levels by checking them using a pH scale all you have to do is drip a little on one of the sticks. If your pH level is under a 4 the acidity is too high. Your H+ conc will be High. Its relatively easy to manage. You should be around a 4 or 5 consistantely.
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    Originally Posted by bluedo View Post
    When eating alot of meat it puts more nitrogen in your system, because of the amino acids. If your on a Keto diet you need to regulate your pH levels by checking them using a pH scale all you have to do is drip a little on one of the sticks. If your pH level is under a 4 the acidity is too high. Your H+ conc will be High. Its relatively easy to manage. You should be around a 4 or 5 consistantely.
    I'm not on Keto, I eat upwards of 400g of carbs
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    Registered User bluedo's Avatar
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    No Keto and 400 carb...I don't know then...Maybe your just full of windex
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