Your Urine Colour and Your Health

A quick peek into the toilet bowl can reveal much about your health. You might have learnt that the colour of your urine can help you figure out how hydrated you are. That’s not the only thing your pee can tell you. Urine colour varies, and while these changes are usually nothing to worry about, sometimes a change in the hue of the urine is a pointer to something going wrong in the body.

The kidneys produce urine

Urine is produced from the filtration of blood by the kidneys. These bean-shaped organs regulate how much water is present in the body. Hence, urine colour varies based on the fluid volume and content of the blood. The urine is composed of thousands of different substances dissolved in water. These substances are products of the metabolic processes going on in the body.

What is normal urine supposed to look like?

There is no one exact hue that is considered the gold standard of normal urine. However, your pee should fall somewhere on the yellow spectrum. Urine gets its yellow colour from urobilin/urochrome, one of the substances excreted by the kidneys. The more water you drink, the clearer your urine will look. If you drink lots of water and your urine is completely clear, you can probably and safely reduce your fluid intake. Although rare, it is still possible to drink too much water.

If your pee is the colour of pale straw or looks like a transparent shade of yellow, that is a likely indication that you are well-hydrated.

If, however you see a darker shade of yellow in the toilet bowl or a different colour altogether, it could be a sign of trouble.

What do other urine colours mean?

Dark yellow or orange urine

If your pee is dark yellow like amber or dark orange like honey, you might not be consuming enough water. One of the functions of the kidney is to maintain an adequate amount of water in the body. Hence, when one doesn’t take in enough water, the kidney produces urine with less water content. This small volume of urine is concentrated by the products of metabolism typically contained in the urine. This gives the urine its darker shade of yellow. Other symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, chills, bad breath, sugar cravings, or muscle cramps. It would help if you increased your water intake whenever you feel any of these symptoms. Doctors recommend you take 1.5 – 2 liters of water daily.

Some medications that can turn your urine dark yellow or orange include phenazopyridine, sulfasalazine and rifampicin. Foods such as fava beans or aloe can also give the urine a brownish hue.

Dark brown urine

Dark brown urine is usually a sign of severe dehydration, a condition that could damage the kidneys. Recent urological procedures could also cause brown-coloured urine. This is due to the dissolution of blood cells in the urine. Other causes are antibiotics, laxatives, and other medications.

Another serious cause of brown urine is rhabdomyolysis, a condition involving muscle breakdown. Other symptoms of this condition include muscle cramps, severe pains, and weakness or tiredness after exercise. Liver diseases and cancers such as melanoma can also cause the production of dark brown urine.

Blue or green urine

This scary-looking urine colour usually has innocuous explanations. A blue or green dye in something you ate could be responsible for this urine colour. Medications such as some heartburn reducers and muscle relaxants, can also make the pee blue or green. Urinary tract infections by bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, fungi and yeast are sometimes the cause. Other signs of urinary tract infections, such as fever and painful urination, are usually present. Rarely, blue or green urine can be a sign of a rare genetic disorder – familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia.

A word from HealthFacts to you

When it comes to your urine, a mellow shade of yellow is best. Sometimes, your diet or medication can change its colour and occasionally, more severe causes exist. Contact your doctor if you are concerned about what you see before you flush.

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Till next time, stay informed and stay healthy!