During your lifetime, your kidneys will work very hard to filter over one million gallons of water. Urine is about 95 percent water and 5 percent uric acid, the stuff that your body does not need, including minerals, enzymes and salts that are dangerous if they accumulate in your body.
Urine can fluctuate in colour and odour depending on what you are eating and drinking, how active you are, the time of day, or what supplements you are taking. However, urine colour and odour can also be an indication of something more serious.
Urine should be pale yellow or clear, not glow-in-the-dark yellow or dark yellow. It should not be cloudy or have a knock-you-over odour, unless you have been eating asparagus! Anything other from clear and odourless could be a sign of trouble.
Urine is made up of excess water and waste that your kidneys have filtered. Urochrome, a pigment found in blood, gives urine its natural, light-yellow tone. Depending upon how hydrated you are, you urine colour can fluctuate from clear to darker yellow, or even tinted orange.
Here is a quick urine primer to fill you in on what you should look for and what your urine may be telling you.
Super clear or transparent
Yes, there is such a thing as urine that is too clear. If your urine is super clear, it may mean you are drinking too many fluids. Be careful not to over-hydrate. The best choice is to drink when you are thirsty! Another common rule of thumb is to aim for half of your body weight in ounces each day. This means, if your weight is 120 pounds, you should be drinking 60 ounces of water per day.
More serious conditions, such as acute viral hepatitis or cirrhosis, can also cause your urine to turn very clear. However, you will also have other symptoms, such as skin yellowing, nausea or vomiting with these conditions. Pale straw colouring to a transparent yellow hue means you are healthy and receiving a proper amount of hydration.
While urine that is dark yellow in colour is still considered within a normal range for healthy individuals, however, it also likely indicates you may not be as hydrated as you should be.
Honey or amber coloured
These darker, orange hues are usually a sound indicator that you are becoming dehydrated. It is best to increase your water intake and then check to see if the colour returns to a normal yellow range. When combined with pale-coloured stools, orange urine may be an indication of liver problems.
Glowing yellow urine may be the result of excess vitamins that are not being absorbed by your body, which places an extra loading on your body. It is best to eat from a healthy source of whole foods and stick to whole food supplements that your body can absorb.
Light to dark orange
This is a somewhat ambiguous colour because it could mean something or nothing. This tint can be caused from food dyes, dehydration, or actual health problems with your bile duct or liver. It is always best to check with a doctor.
Green or blue
This is most likely going to be caused from artificial colouring in something that you ate. However, it could be from a bacterial infection in the urinary tract or the sign of a rare genetic disorder. Consult with a doctor to rule out health problems.
Brown or cola-coloured
This colour is a possible sign of serious dehydration, or even possible liver disease. Immediately increase your water intake and check to see if the colour lightens. If this darkened colouration persists, you should follow up with your doctor.
Light pink to darker red
This is hard to interpret. Many foods can cause urine discolouration, such as beetroot and blueberries. Medications can also contain dyes and compounds that can change the colour of your urine. However, it might indicate the presence of blood in the urine, yet many times blood in the urine is not visible to the naked eye. There are a number of possible causes that would lead to blood in the urine, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and prostate issues. It is always best to consult with your doctor to be sure.
In addition to colour, pay careful attention to other urine abnormalities including the following:
If you are having lower back pain, lower abdomen pain, or urinary urgency combined with cloudy urine, see a doctor. Cloudy urine may also be the result of kidney stones, generally accompanied by great pain.
Fizzy or foamy urine
Besides the colour, it’s important to take notice if your urine appears to be fizzy or foamy. If this only happens on rare occasions then it is likely just a benign cause. If it is occurring regularly, it may be indicating possible high levels of protein in the urine. When in doubt, it is best to get it checked out.
Normal urine should not have a strong odour, but there are also many substances that can alter the way your urine smells. Urine is the reflection of what is going on inside of your body and contains many metabolic by-products and compounds. Some dogs are even able to “smell cancer” in human beings.
If your urine has a very pungent aroma, like ammonia, it could be an indication of a urinary tract infection, urinary stones, or a sign of dehydration. Because dehydration causes urine to become concentrated, it will have a stronger than usual odour. Some sexually transmitted diseases, and certain metabolic conditions can also increase the ammonia smell.
Other reasons for a change in urine odour include the following:
Medications and supplements. Some may change the colour of urine.
Diet. Certain foods, such as asparagus, cause urine to smell foul.
Diabetes can cause urine to smell fruity or yeasty.
The most important thing to remember when checking your urine colour is that it can change to a myriad of colours because of a number of factors. Just knowing what normal urine should look and smell like provides a useful measuring tool. Noticing the colour changes in your urine can be an early indicator of potential health problems. See a doctor if your urine changes colour and the colour persists or is accompanied by other symptoms.
Paying attention to the colour (and smell) of your urine may be a warning sign to catch early health problems. It is certainly worth a quick sneak peek in the toilet bowl to make sure that everything is okay.
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