Why Does My Sweat Smell Like Ammonia? Causes & Treatment

why does my sweat smell like ammonia

As many people know and experience, sweat is an inevitable byproduct of intense workouts or jogging sessions. In fact, sweat is so common that everybody is familiar with its smell.

But sometimes, you might notice that your sweat has a much stronger, cloying odor, similar to that of a public restroom. If that happens regularly, you are most likely asking yourself one simple question — why does my sweat smell like ammonia?

Is It Normal to Smell Like Ammonia?

Generally speaking, sweat is a virtually odorless secretion. The smell that is associated with sweat is caused by bacteria that get broken down on your skin when sweat comes in contact with substances on said surface.

Keep in mind that your diet, health, weight, and even medication can also influence the smell of your sweat. So, to put it simply, while it’s not normal for sweat to smell like anything, including ammonia, it is pretty common. Additionally, sweat does contain small amounts of ammonia, but in general, not enough for you to notice.

Why Does My Sweat Smell Like Ammonia? 5 Reasons


Although sweat should be odorless, there are many reasons why it might smell like ammonia, ranging from diet and medication to health conditions.

1. Diet

Your body uses carbohydrates for energy, converting them into glucose. That’s because carbohydrates are a reliable energy supply. However, if there are not enough of them available, your body will use protein instead. Unlike carbohydrates, protein breaks into amino acids, which then get converted into ammonia. Eventually, your body will release the excess ammonia through sweat and urine, producing the aforementioned odor.

Therefore, you need to maintain your carbohydrate levels by consuming grains, fruits, and dairy products. Additionally, avoid protein-rich foods such as lean meats and poultry until you get rid of the ammonia smell.

2. Exercise

Research has shown that exercise can affect ammonia levels in sweat. In fact, the more intensely you exercise, the more ammonia you will generate. The good news is that taking a small break from your workout routine should reduce ammonia to its original levels in just three days.

3. Kidney Disease

The kidneys are responsible for removing urea from the body. But if they are not working as they should, urea will enter the bloodstream, forcing your body to release it through sweat, causing an odor similar to ammonia. Remember that this is a symptom of kidney failure, which can be a fatal condition, so make sure to contact a physician if you notice a strong, persistent odor.

4. Diabetes

Diabetes can cause a complication called diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA. This condition develops when your body burns fat for energy due to a lack of insulin and produces ketones. During the process, your body can release acetone, a type of ketone that has a negative effect on your breath and body odor.

Other symptoms of DKA include:

• Thirst
• Dry mouth
• Vomiting
• Frequent urination
• High blood sugar levels

5. Trichomycosis

Trichomycosis is a bacterial infection that impacts the hair in your underarms and pubic region. The condition is caused by Corynebacterium and results in yellow, red, or black nodules that stick to your hair. One of the most common symptoms of this infection is odor, particularly near your armpits.



In order to control body odor and get rid of the ammonia smell, the International Hyperhidrosis Society recommends you to:

• Wash using antibacterial soap.
• Keep your skin dry.
• Use deodorants to mask body odors and antiperspirants to reduce sweating.

But if none of the above works, you’ll need to see a doctor who can give you a proper diagnosis and possibly recommend one of the following medical treatments:

Microwave Thermolysis

This treatment relies on microwave energy to permanently disable sweat glands in the underarms. While there are no known side effects of the procedure, it does have a recovery time of about 24 hours before you will be able to exercise again.


According to research, Botox can cause an 87% reduction in underarm sweating. It works by blocking the chemical that triggers the sweat glands to produce sweat. As a result, many people choose Botox injections, which usually stop sweating for up to 14 months. However, this is not a permanent treatment, and for most people, sweating will return after a couple of months.

Gretchen Walker
Gretchen is a homemaker by day and writer by night. She takes a keen interest in life as it unfolds around her and spends her free time observing people go about their everyday affairs.