Ideally, you should be able to get all the vitamins you need from diet alone. However, if your diet is lacking in essential compounds, taking vitamin supplements can boost the amount of necessary micronutrients. Like most supplements, excess vitamins can cause some side effects in the body, including changes in urine odor. If your urine smells like vitamins, you may be taking more than you need.
You may notice a change in how your pee smells when taking vitamin or mineral supplements because the excess compounds are excreted in urine.
Getting Enough Vitamins
A diet deficient in vitamins can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Because vitamins are organic compounds, they can be broken down in the body by heat, oxygen or acids. The vitamin content in food diminishes during cooking and preserving, but taking supplements can increase your vitamin intake.
However, much of the U.S. diet contains foods fortified with vitamins, making it easy to take more supplemental vitamins than the body needs. Some of the excess is stored in the body, and some is excreted in urine.
Processing Two Types of Vitamins
Water-soluble vitamins break down in water and thus cannot be stored in the body. These include the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. The body eliminates excess amounts of these vitamins in urine, and the vitamins must be replaced by food or supplements on a regular basis.
Read more: A List of Water-Soluble Vitamins
Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, do not dissolve in water but instead are stored in fatty tissues within the body as well as the liver. Excess amounts of these vitamins are not excreted in urine but accumulate in the body. The body releases them as needed, but taking high-dosage vitamins can lead to toxicity as vitamin stores build up.
Read more: How Are Fat-Soluble Vitamins Absorbed?
Balancing Minerals in the Body
Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium are common ingredients in multivitamin supplements. These compounds are inorganic and do not break down in the body like vitamins. However, they often pass in urine like water-soluble vitamins.
Minerals often interact with each other in a delicate balance. Too much of one compound can result in a deficiency of another mineral. Calcium binds to sodium and is excreted in greater quantities when you consume a lot of salt. Potassium is also readily passed in urine.
Changes in Urine Color
Normal, healthy urine color is clear, pale yellow, but taking vitamins can change the color of pee. Vitamin C makes orange urine, while urine turns light green from B-complex vitamins. Deeply hued foods, such as beets and blackberries, can alter urine color as well as dyes added to foods or vitamins.
Changes in Urine Odor
Compounds in foods such as asparagus can cause a change in urine odor. Likewise, compounds in certain vitamins can also change the way your pee smells. Water-soluble vitamins are the likely culprits responsible for causing pee to smell different.
Among water-soluble vitamins, vitamin B6 — also known as pyridoxine — is especially known to cause a strong odor when excreted in urine. Foods high in vitamin B6, including fortified cereals, can also produce strong-smelling urine.
Symptoms to Smell or Watch For
Changes in urine color or odor may also indicate an untreated condition. Brown or orange urine may indicate a liver problem. A urinary infection could manifest as greenish, reddish or cloudy urine.
Liver failure and urinary infections alter the smell of urine, as well as its color. Other conditions that affect how pee smells include diabetes, metabolic disorders and kidney problems.
Dehydration also affects urine odor. Not drinking enough water causes urine to become more concentrated, making pee smell more strongly of ammonia. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially when you're taking vitamin supplements.