Your urine color and odor can reveal important information about your body’s waste elimination process, providing clues about your overall health status.
Your kidneys serve to filter excess water and water-soluble wastes out of your blood, getting rid of toxins and things that would otherwise build up and cause you to become ill. Many things—from excess protein and sugar to bacteria and yeast—may make their way into your urine.
Instead of ignoring your urine and dashing back to whatever important activity having to pee interrupted, take this golden opportunity to become familiar with your “normal.”
If you notice changes in the way your urine looks or smells, the cause might be something as benign as what you had for dinner last night, such as beets or asparagus. Or, your astuteness may potentially alert you to a serious condition.
If you suspect you have a urinary tract problem, you should consult your physician. One of the first things he or she is likely to do is a urine test. Urine tests have been around for more than 6,000 years1 and are easy, non-invasive tools for quickly assessing your health status2.
Minding Your Pees and Cues
In your lifetime, your kidneys filter more than one million gallons of water, enough to fill a small lake. Amazingly, one kidney can handle the task perfectly well. In fact, if you lose a kidney, your remaining kidney can increase in size by 50 percent within two months, to take over the job of both.3
Urine is 95 percent water and five percent urea, uric acid, minerals, salts, enzymes, and various substances that would cause problems if allowed to accumulate in your body4. Normal urine is clear and has a straw yellow color, caused by a bile pigment called urobilin.
As with your stool, your urine changes color depending on what foods you eat, what medications and supplements you take, how much water you drink, how active you are, and the time of the day.
But some diseases can also change the color and other characteristics of your urine, so it’s important to be alert and informed. With so many variables, you can’t always be sure of what’s causing any particular urine characteristic, short of laboratory testing.
However, urine’s character gives you some clues to potential problems that may be developing, giving you time to do something about it.
The following chart outlines some of the most common color variations for urine and their possible origins. The majority of the time, color changes resulting from foods, medications, supplements, or simply dehydration. But there are certain signs that warrant concern.
Your Urine Color And Possible Causes
|Color||Possible Causes||Necessary Action|
|Yellow/Gold||The most typical urine color, indicative of a healthy urinary tract; yellow will intensify depending on hydration; some B vitamins cause bright yellow urine||None|
|Red/Pink||Hematuria (fresh blood in the urine) related to urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stone, or rarely cancer; consumption of red foods such as beets, blueberries, red food dyes, rhubarb; iron supplements; Pepto-Bismol, Maalox, and a variety of other drugs5; classic “port wine” color may indicate porphyria (genetic disorder)||***Consult your physician immediately if you suspect you have blood in your urine|
|White/Colorless||Excessive hydration is most likely. (See Cloudy)||Consult your physician only if chronic|
|Orange||Typically a sign of dehydration, showing up earlier than thirst; “holding your bladder” for too long; post-exercise; consuming orange foods (carrots, squash, or food dyes); the drug Pyridium (phenazopyridine); liver or pituitary problem (ADH, or antidiuretic hormone)||Drink more water and don’t delay urination; consult physician if orange urine persists despite adequate hydration|
|Amber||More concentrated than orange so severe dehydration related to intense exercise or heat; excess caffeine or salt; hematuria; decreased urine production (oliguria or anuria); metabolic problem; pituitary problem (ADH, or antidiuretic hormone)||Consult your physician if problem persists despite adequate hydration|
|Brown||Very dense urine concentration, extreme dehydration; consumption of fava beans; melanuria (too many particles in urine); UTI; kidney stone; kidney tumor or blood clot; Addison’s disease; glycosuria; renal artery stenosis; proteinuria; pituitary problem (ADH, or antidiuretic hormone)||Consult your physician if problem persists despite adequate hydration, especially if accompanied by pale stools or yellow skin or eyes|
|Black||RARE: Alkaptonuria, a genetic disorder of phenylalanine and tyrosine metabolism marked by accumulation of homogentisic acid in the blood; poisoning||Consult your physician|
|Green||RARE: Unusual UTIs and certain foods (such as asparagus); excessive vitamins||Usually benign; consult your physician if it persists, especially if you have pain or burning (dysuria), and/or frequent urination (polyuria), which are symptoms of UTI|
|Blue||RARE: Artificial colors in foods or drugs; bilirubin; medications such as methylene blue; unusual UTIs||Usually benign; consult your physician if it persists, especially if you have pain or burning (dysuria), and/or frequent urination (polyuria), which are symptoms of UTI|
|Cloudy||Urinary tract infection, kidney problem, metabolic problem, or chyluria (lymph fluid in the urine), phosphaturia (phosphate crystals), pituitary problem (ADH, or antidiuretic hormone)||Consult physician, especially if you have pain or burning (dysuria), and/or frequent urination (polyuria), which are symptoms of UTI|
|Sediment||Proteinuria (protein particles) or albuminuria; UTI; kidney stones; see Cloudy||Consult your physician|
|Foamy||Turbulent urine stream; proteinuria (most common causes are diabetes and hypertension)||Consult physician if not due to “turbulence”|
Related Post: What Your Bowel Movement Tells You About Your Health
How Much Water Should You Drink?
I don’t subscribe to the commonly quoted rule of drinking six to eight glasses of water every day. Your body is capable of telling you what it needs and when it needs it.
Once your body has lost one to two percent of its total water, your thirst mechanism kicks in to let you know it’s time to drink—so thirst should be your guide. Of course, if you are outside on a hot, dry day or exercising vigorously, you’ll require more water than usual—but even then, drinking when you feel thirsty will allow you to remain hydrated.
As you age, your thirst mechanism tends to work less efficiently. Therefore, older adults will want to be sure to drink water regularly, in sufficient quantity to maintain pale yellow urine.
As long as you aren’t taking riboflavin (vitamin B2, found in most multivitamins), which turns urine bright “fluorescent” yellow, then your urine should be quite pale. If you have kidney or bladder stones or a urinary tract infection, increase your water intake accordingly.
When You Feel the Urge to Go, GO
You should now have a pretty good idea of how important it is to familiarize yourself with what’s normal for your pee. Urine is a window into the inner workings of your body and can function as an “early warning system” for detecting health problems.
The most important factor in the overall health of your urinary tract is drinking plenty of pure, fresh water every day. Inadequate hydration is the number one risk factor for kidney stones, as well as being important for preventing UTIs.
To avoid overly frequent bathroom breaks, stay hydrated but not over-hydrated. Drink whenever you’re thirsty, but don’t feel you have to drink eight glasses of water per day, every day. If you’re getting up during the night to pee, stop drinking three to four hours before bedtime.
Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, which can irritate the lining of your bladder. Make sure your diet has plenty of magnesium, and avoid sugar (including fructose and soda) and non-fermented soy products due to their oxalate content. Finally, don’t hold it. As soon as you feel the urge to go, go! Delaying urination is detrimental to the health of your bladder due to over-distension.
Related Post: What Your Bowel Movement Tells You About Your Health.
Original article was first published in DrMercola.com. Republished here with permission.