Our bodies provide us with many indicators of our health and nutrition. The strength of our hair and nails, the clearness of our skin, and yes—even the color, smell, and consistency of our urine. To determine whether we are adequately hydrated or suffering from an underlying health issue, we should look to our urine for clues.
CLEAR: Colorless urine means you’re extremely well-hydrated—possibly even too much. If this happens consistently, ease back on your water, coffee, or tea intake so as not to overwhelm your kidneys. LIGHT YELLOW: A pale, straw color (like a light white wine) is normal and means you’re adequately hydrated and healthy. Keep it up! MEDIUM TO DARK YELLOW: The darker the yellow of your urine, the more dehydrated you are (think in the range of yellow lemonade to amber apple juice). Darker shades mean you should drink water immediately, though if you’ve been drinking plenty of water but are also taking a lot of B vitamins, they can be a contributing factor. ORANGE: Orange-tinted urine can result from several issues, including extreme dehydration. Many bladder infection medications make your pee look like Tang, as can consuming a lot of carrots or vitamin C. If you suspect dehydration, rehydrate immediately, and if the color persists, it’s time to call your doctor. Orange urine can signal the presence of bilirubin, a byproduct of the breakdown of old blood cells and which is drained by the gallbladder. Presence of bilirubin in urine can signal a gallstone blockage or liver disease. LIGHT PINK: Foods like beets, rhubarb, or blueberries can tint your urine a pale pink, similar to rosé wine. If you haven’t recently eaten any of these foods, pink urine can indicate the presence of blood and even just a little should warrant a visit to your GP or a urologist. Blood can signal an infection, or less likely, the early stages of bladder cancer. DARK PINK/RED: If your pee looks like red wine it’s cause for concern, as it indicates the presence of old blood which darkens as it clots and breaks down. Old blood in urine is worrisome because it means internal bleeding has been happening long enough to generate a significant amount. Call your doctor immediately to rule out cancer, kidney disease, prostate problems, or (rarely) lead or mercury poisoning. BROWN: Brown, flat cola-like urine can be the benign side effect of medications such as the anti-malarial drug chloroquine or the antibiotic metronidazole, or a sign of severe dehydration or liver or kidney disease. It can also result from significant muscle damage caused by intense over-exercising. Myoglobin—used by our muscles to capture oxygen—can seep into the bloodstream and consequently our urine. Too much myoglobin in the blood can lead to kidney failure, so see a doctor for a test if you suspect this may be the case. Otherwise, hydrate yourself and call a doctor if the color persists. BLUE/GREEN: The likeliest, and benign, culprits of Kool-Aid-colored urine are consumption of excessive food dye or the side effect of methylene blue, an ingredient in some UTI medications. Far less commonly, it’s the symptom of bacteria growth, and very rarely, a rare genetic disease. If you’re not on medication or consuming food dye, consult your doctor.
In addition to color, you should also consider the texture and smell of your urine (this doesn’t require getting up close and personal with your pee—you’ll know). While certain foods like coffee and asparagus can cause odor, consult your doctor if you notice any abnormal smells or consistencies like those outlined below:
FOUL: A possible indicator of a urinary tract infection (UTI), especially when accompanied by fever, chills, back pain, and/or a burning sensation during urination. SWEET: A possible indicator of diabetes or liver disease. MUSTY: A possible indicator of a metabolic disorder. CLOUDY: Urine that has the consistency of a dirty martini is most likely a sign of a bladder infection. FOAMING OR FIZZING: Generally, a harmless hydraulic effect, but if it happens with regularity, it could be a sign of excess protein in your diet—or kidney disease.
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