What Your Urine Says About Your Health

Urine consists of water and waste products that your kidneys have filtered out of your blood. It helps to get rid of toxins or substances that can be harmful for the body. Many of the substances circulating in your body, including sugar, bacteria, yeast, excess protein, eventually make their way into the urine. That’s why your urine can reveal what you eat, how much you drink, and what diseases you may have.

urine colorThe appearance and smell of your urine – as well as the volume of urine you excrete–provide important clues about what is going on inside your body. Normally, urine doesn’t have a very strong smell and its color varies from pale yellow to deep amber, depending on the concentration of the urine. A healthy adult can produce between 0.5 to 2 liters of urine a day, but the quantity varies considerably, depending on fluid intake, activity level, environmental factors, weight, and the individual’s health. Changes in those characteristics may indicate health problems. But in harmless cases, the changes are just temporary effects after taking certain drugs or foods.

Here are possible urine changes and what they might be saying about your health.

  • The color is too dark. Dark yellow urine could be a sign of dehydration. It may contain less water and more waste products than usual, which can be an indication that you do not drink enough fluid. If the urine looks brown or even black, the cause might be the excess bilirubin (breakdown product of hemoglobin) that gets into the urine. In rare cases, melanoma (a serious type of skin cancer) can also contribute to this condition. Foods that may turn urine brown include fava beans and rhubarb.
  • Looking pale. If your urine is very pale or as colorless as water, that’s probably because you’re either drinking a lot of fluid, or you’re taking a diuretic (a drug that forces the body to get rid of excess water).
  • Turning red. It can be a sign that there is blood in the urine (hematuria) and this may involve something serious. Certain health problems like kidney stones, bladder infections or bladder cancer, and enlargement of the prostate gland can allow blood to get into the urine. However, there is also a harmless kind of red urine called beeturia. It can occur after you eat beets.
  • A rainbow of colors. Certain medications or foods can give different color effects to the urine. Vitamins can give it a bright yellow color. The anesthetic propofol, the stomach acid drug cimetidine (Tagamet), and the tricyclic antidepressant fluorescent amitriptyline (Elavil) may cause green -or bluish green– urine. Methylene blue, a dye used in various diagnostic tests, can turn urine blue. An orange tinge has two possible causes: medications (including tuberculosis (TB) treatment drugs) and large amounts of carrots or carrot juice
  • Strong odor. An infection or urinary stones can create an ammonia-like odor. Diabetes can cause the urine smells sweet, because of excess sugar. Certain foods, especially asparagus, can also cause strong odor. When the food is broken down in the digestive system, the smelly substances are released, filtered through the kidney, and then make their way into the urine.
  • Turbid (cloudy) urine. It may be a symptom of a bacterial infection, but can also be caused by crystallization of salts such as calcium phosphate.
  • Frequent urination. If you are constantly feeling the urge to pass urine (more often than usual) and it’s not because you’re drinking extra fluid, there are some possible causes, including overactive bladder, urinary tract infection, interstitial cystitis (a condition that causes the bladder wall to become inflamed and irritated), neurological diseases (including stroke and Parkinson’s disease), diabetes, and benign prostate enlargement — growth of the prostate that causes it to squeeze the urethra and block the normal flow of urine out of the body.


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