It's time to talk about pee

From yellow to brown to, yes, blue, the colour of your urine says a lot about your health.

Nick Beare 4 minute read February 2, 2022
Trendy pattern with white toilet bowl on bright orange background.

The colour of your urine usually correlates directly with how much water you drink. GETTY

We talked about the ins and outs of poop a little while ago — it’s time to give pee a little bit of attention, too.

Urine can tell us a lot about the state of our health. Our pee can indicate that there might be an issue with our kidneys, whether there is an infection in our urinary tract, and how hydrated we are.

What does healthy pee look like?

Urine is liquid waste that the kidneys filter out from the blood. Made up mostly of water and electrolytes, urine also contains other waste products such as proteins, nutrients and salts that the body no longer needs. As such, the colour of your urine usually correlates directly with how much water you drink — though it can change to other colours under certain circumstances.

No colour or clear. The body needs water to function properly, but if your pee is consistently clear or colourless it could be a sign that you’re overdoing it. While you definitely want to be hydrated (you should be drinking nine to 12 cups of water per day depending on your sex, age and weight), drinking too much water can deplete your system of electrolytes and salts the body needs. Plus, you’ll have to pee a lot.

If you’re peeing clear consistently, it can also indicate an underlying kidney problem or diabetes.

Pale yellow to darker yellow. Anything in this range is considered ‘normal,’ according the Mayo Clinic. In fact,a pale yellow colour is what you’re striving for, as it indicates a good level of hydration and normal levels of electrolytes and salts. The yellowish colour is caused by a combination of the chemicals urochrome and urobilin.

Amber or dark honey. Deeper hues are a sign that you’re dehydrated — the urine is more concentrated and the urochrome hasn’t been diluted enough. This colour is more common in the morning because you haven’t been drinking any fluids for eight hours or so.

Brown. Brown-coloured urine indicates that you are significantly dehydrated. At worst, it could indicate that bile has started to seep into your urine — a sign of liver disease.

Red or pink. Sometimes a reddish tint can be caused by your diet. For example, if you eat a lot of beets, rhubarb or blueberries, you can end up seeing some funny colours in the toilet bowl. But if those foods are not a part of your diet, red or pink pee can mean there is blood in the urine, indicating a urinary tract infection, cancer, kidney problems, bladder stones or an enlarged prostate, according to the Mayo Clinic. You should see a doctor immediately if you aren’t eating foods that could be dyeing your pee red. Some medications can also cause reddish pee.

Blue or green. Most of the time, when your pee is this colour it’s because of something you ate. Heavily dyed foods can cause some green or blue to show up in your urine, but it could also be a sign of a rare condition called hypercalcemia — when there is a lower-than-average level of calcium in the blood — or a sign of bacteria in the urinary tract.

Cloudy. Cloudy urine could be a sign of a urinary tract infection but could also just be dehydration.

Foamy urine. Usually caused by a heavier stream into the water of the toilet, foamy or fizzy pee could also indicate a kidney issue or that protein is not being filtered properly and ending up in the urine.

 What does healthy pee smell like?

If you are drinking enough water, your urine should not have much of an odour. However, if you are dehydrated and your pee becomes more concentrated, it will give off a strong ammonia smell. Certain foods such as asparagus can also change the smell of urine for some people, as well as some medications, supplements, vitamins and health conditions.

How often should you pee?

According to the Bladder and Bowel Community, peeing six or seven times per day is normal for most people. That number can also range from four to ten depending on the person, and still be a healthy number if they are healthy otherwise.

If you notice a change in how often you go, or a drastic change in colour or aroma, make sure to speak with your doctor.

Nick Beare is a Toronto-based freelance writer. 

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