If It’s Asparagus, Why Does My Pee Smell Like Cabbage?

7 May

Nobody tells you. It’s something you have to learn for yourself, the same way girls learn to pee sitting down and boys learn to pee standing anywhere.

It happens when we least expect it—an offense that’s sinful enough to bring the devil to his knees—asparagus-induced urinary odor.

If you’re like most people, you spend your childhood avoiding any vegetable not on a cob, much less one that’s green, pointy and prehistoric looking. But somewhere between your first cholesterol reading and your first heart attack, you stop eschewing and start chewing.

You discover one night over dinner with friends that you actually enjoy asparagus.  Until  . . .

Fifteen to thirty minutes later you go to relieve yourself and your nose wrinkles—at what exactly, it’s hard to say—grapefruit, garlic, skunk?

You scan the restroom. “Did somebody hide an Easter egg in here?”

You presume that someone in the bathroom is either: A) Suffering kidney failure B) Brewing beer in the second stall, or C) Has discovered the technology to convert toilet water into sulfuric hot springs.

Who let off the stink bomb?  You wonder.

You peer under the stall for a glimpse of the offender’s shoes, but no one is there.

The only logical explanation is that, by some freak of nature, your own body has released an acrid odor of volcanic activity. You panic; worried the toilet bowl you’re sitting on might melt away.

Your eyes burn. You’re tempted to light a match to mask the odor but fear you might spontaneously combust.

You hightail it out of the bathroom, leaving the restaurant owner to worry about fumigation.

“You won’t believe what just happened!” you pant to your friends. You spare them no details, except the part about dashing out of the restroom without washing your hands.

Two of them appear sympathetic. The other four look at you as if you forgot to pull your pants up.

Judy, a nutritionist, explains, “It’s not unusual. Most people have stinky pee after eating asparagus. It’s just that only about 25 percent of us can smell it. It’s the compounds in the asparagus metabolizing that make our pee smell so . . . distinctive. It’s the ammonia and other sulfurous stuff.”
Just my luck, I think. I can’t whistle to save my life, but I’m one of the chosen few who can produce odorous pee and smell it too.

“Don’t let that stop you from eating asparagus,” Judy says. “It’s a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc.”

“Well all right, then,” I say, piling more asparagus onto my plate. Why not? The damage is already done. But little do I know . . .

“There’s one more thing I should tell you,” Judy says, holding up a finger.

“What’s that?” I ask, as I swallow another forkful of asparagus.

“Its fiber content makes it a laxative, too.”

Food for thought:  What’s your asparagus experience?  Are you one of the “chosen few?”

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59 Responses to “If It’s Asparagus, Why Does My Pee Smell Like Cabbage?”

  1. joehoover May 7, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    love asparagus, hate the resultant smell. But I’ve discussed with people some don;t smell it and others said it only affects men. I had no idea only 25% can smell it so that explains the answers I got.

  2. Maxine May 7, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Not only can I smell it, but I can’t whistle either! =:-O

  3. Paprika Furstenburg May 7, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Well, Lisa, this is one more thing we have in common. Maybe we can start a club for us 25 percenters.

  4. Audubon Ron May 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    You crack me up!

    • Main Street Musings Blog May 7, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      Thanks, Ron. Let me know if you’d ever like to join my family for a nice asparagus barbecue.

  5. Carl D'Agostino May 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I’ve wondered about that. Dig the cartoon. Nice and simple and delivers. I try to do that style.

    • Main Street Musings Blog May 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

      I wondered about it too, which is what inspired me to research it further! I can’t take credit for the cartoon, however. Thanks, Google images!

  6. crubin May 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    I have never grown up when it comes to asparagus. Which means I still don’t like it. Now you’ve convinced me I’ve made a fine choice…

    Very funny. Thanks for some good laughs!

    • Main Street Musings Blog May 7, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks, glad you liked the post. Sounds like you keep a safe distance from asparagus. There’s plenty of other vegetables in the sea, er, in the garden . . .

  7. cindyricksgers May 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    I never knew…thanks for another funny post!

  8. Woman in the Middle May 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    I wonder if people who blog are more likely to be in the infamous 25%? Any way, yes, I am part of the 25%. Sigh.

  9. sportsattitudes May 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    I most often have my asparagus grilled. I wonder if that makes it more or less likely to experience these “issues” than if it was prepared in another manner? In any event, I am prepared to report on how I fare the next time I indulge now that I have this additional info. I love the stuff and eat it often. I was indeed aware of its nutritional value. Wasn’t aware of the “side effects” however…

  10. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer May 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    Uh huh; I used to think I was immune to Poison Ivy until I got caught in a patch, itched and itched. So maybe if I paid more attention I’d know I wasn’t immune to the asparagus problem either. Thank you so much (?) for bringing this to my attention and awareness.

  11. Drive Thru Guy May 7, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Not one of the chosen few! Never smelled a difference.

  12. earthriderjudyberman May 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Your eloquent description of the asparagus’ odoriferous qualities can only be rivaled by Tom Robbins description of asparagus consumption and its aftermath in “Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas.” I can never eat asparagus and not think of that book … and, now, I will have the same reaction in recalling this hysterical column.
    If you haven’t read his book, I highly recommend it.

    • Main Street Musings Blog May 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      Why thank you, Judy! And thanks for the recommendation. I’ve never heard of it but I will be sure to check it out!

  13. Jennifer Worrell May 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    Holy Smelly Asparagus Pee, Batman! I am definitely affected! My husband and I race to see who can smell it first. Okay, TMI, but it is kind of funny…

  14. nursemommylaughs May 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    One for the smellers and one for drinker of rotten milk (aka no smelling capabilities for the ole asparagus = husband). This should be a mandatory food item at EBWW. Talk about bathroom laughs! Very funny and educational.

  15. Huffygirl May 8, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    I guess I’m not special after all, because I’ve never smelled this. I always wondered what other people were talking about…

  16. thelaughingmom May 9, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    Yes, I’m one of the chosen. Wondering if I should add it to my LinkedIn profile.

    • Main Street Musings Blog May 9, 2012 at 8:29 am #

      LOL! Not sure if that one is an asset!

    • nursemommylaughs May 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

      I think that is EXACTLY what needs to get LinkedIn up and hopping!

      • thelaughingmom May 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

        Wouldn’t that be hilarious?! I can just see the 3rd tier connection requests rolling in.

  17. Perfecting Motherhood May 23, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    I smell it and it really smells like (strong) asparagus, not cabbage. I read an article about this a few years ago and it says a larger percentage of French people have the smelling gene than other countries. I’m French so I’ll second that, and now my kids can smell it too and it doesn’t bother us one bit. We just find it funny that we can make our pee smell (boys!).

  18. The Sandwich Lady June 4, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Yes I do have the gene and can smell it too. Still love asparagus, though. Did you know it’s a member of the lily family?

    • Main Street Musings Blog June 4, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      Interesting, I did not know it was a member of the lily family. Its after effect should only smell like a lily!

  19. bestbathroombooks June 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    RIght up my alley (yeah, my alley has pee in the corner).

  20. WordsFallFromMyEyes June 25, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    This was totally enlightening to me – I had no idea. I’d have to be one of the percent who can’t smell it. I have never smelt it!

    It’s always good to get a pro’s take on things!!

  21. cindy knoke February 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    I have often wondered this myself! 🙂

  22. Main Street Musings Blog February 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    I hope now you’ve found the answer!

  23. Kavita Joshi February 9, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    Hahaha..it was just hillarious the way you hsv put it…thanks for liking my post

  24. Kevin Gillespie April 29, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    I’ve never tried Asparagus myself Lisa.

    Now that I’ve read this, I’m wondering whether I want to lol. 🙂

    • Main Street Musings Blog April 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

      After you try it you should know within about twenty minutes whether or not you ever want to try it again. 😉

  25. skinnyuz2b May 31, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    What a great post. And yes, I’m a member of the 25% club. This reminds me of the first time I took medication for a kidney infection … turned my pee red. I ran to my manager and said I had to rush to the doctors because I was bleeding internally and peeing blood. I was only 24 so that’s my excuse.
    And thanks for liking 1950 Suburban Adventures.

    • Main Street Musings Blog May 31, 2013 at 7:52 am #

      Sounds alarming. The kidney infection meds should come with a warning label. Come to think of it, so should asparagus. . .

  26. sued51 June 4, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    LOL! But it passes through you quickly…

  27. paywindow7 June 30, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    I’ve never had the asparagus pee adventure but yes to a similar phenomenon after drinking beer. The beer pee did not smell like cabbage, it was like, well… more beer. Which brought on a brief in-head conversation similar to: “if it smells like beer can it possibly be beer and save me some dollars per bottle plus tips”. Luckily the band started playing again so I walked out of the head and did not proceed with any ill advised experimentation.

  28. downhousesoftware December 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Asparagus pee is one of the ways I’ve tried to con my son INTO eating it. At eight years old, it’s a badge of honor, not something to fear.
    My wife tells me to stop egging him on.

  29. noellevignola January 7, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    Laughing out loud! So delighted it is at your expense!

  30. danniehill March 5, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

    I must be special– I can pee anywhere, whistle and smell! A little secret; it’s an almost immediate reaction. You don’t have to wait to experience the phenomenon. Very funny post!

  31. Mo Dawson April 2, 2015 at 5:27 am #

    I went ages not realising it was my pee – it smells like a stale dishcloth to me and i spent many an hour hunting for the invisible stale dishcloth in the bathroom! When I finally realised it was my pee smell, strong enough to last even after I’d pulled the chain, I googled “smelly pee” thinking there must be something very wrong with me and came across the asparagus link. As I had just eaten asparagus and it only occurs when I have eaten asparagus, I have now stopped hunting for the stale dishcloth and just pour lots of fresh smelling toilet cleaner down the basin after an asparagus meal!

    • Main Street Musings Blog April 2, 2015 at 7:58 am #

      I’ve read that scientists are developing a new apple that doesn’t brown when cut. Maybe there’s hope for asparagus!

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