Nobody talks about urine in polite company, but it says a lot about you. its smell, consistency, and color are telltale indicators of your lifestyle and well-being, ranging from what you’ve been eating and drinking lately to illnesses you may not even know you have.
Urine is mostly water (at least 95 percent), but the rest is a surprisingly complex mix of ingredients including urea, chloride, sodium, potassium, creatinine, and other dissolved ions, plus various inorganic and organic compounds . The most common color of urine is yellow, caused by the presence of urobilin, a biochemical waste product generated by the breakdown of old red blood cells. (Your body makes about 2 million new red blood cells every day and recycles an equal number of old ones.)
here’s a handy color chart the next time you’re standing wondering:
1. Clear. Colorless urine may indicate overhydration. Although not as dangerous as dehydration, overhydration can dilute essential salts, such as electrolytes, creating a problematic chemical imbalance in the blood.
2. pale straw color. normal, healthy, well hydrated.
3. transparent yellow. normal.
4. dark yellow. normal, but suggestive of mild dehydration.
5. amber or honey. possibly dehydrated. Note: Many popular sites recommend drinking water to address some of the above colors, but Dena Rifkin, MD, a nephrologist on the UC San Diego staff of health and an assistant professor of medicine, suggests caution. “I never advise people to test the color of their urine to see if they are hydrated and I would never recommend hydration based on the color of urine. instead, ‘drink to thirst’. Eight glasses of water a day is an urban myth as far as most doctors are concerned, and the only people who should be concerned about drinking more are those with a history of kidney stones.”
6. light orange. possibly dehydrated, but can also be caused by liver or bile duct problems, consumed food dyes, or the excretion of excess B vitamins from the bloodstream. talk to your doctor.
7. orange. some medications, such as rifampin or phenazopyridine, can cause this discoloration. ask your doctor.
8. dark orange or brown. a possible symptom of jaundice, rhabdomyolysis, or Gilbert’s syndrome. also caused by severe dehydration. Consult your doctor.
9. pink. for some people, eating beets, cranberries, or rhubarb can do this. “If you’ve eaten beets and have color changes in your urine, you don’t need to see a doctor,” Rifkin said. on the other hand, a pinkish hue could be a first indicator of a larger problem. see red.
10. red. this color can be a worrying symptom of many things. Blood in the urine, called hematuria, can be benign, idiopathic, or a sign of a kidney stone, infection, or tumor in the urinary tract. may indicate a problem with the prostate. or possible lead or mercury poisoning. or a group of rare inherited disorders known as porphyrias. red urine is a red flag to immediately see a doctor.
11. green. eating asparagus does this for some people, although many more people notice the vegetable’s odorous effect on their urine. Some medications and food dyes also produce harmless green urine, but they can also indicate a bacterial infection in the urinary tract. ask your doctor.
12. blue. some medications and food dyes produce bluish urine. so does a rare inherited metabolic disorder known as familial hypercalcemia or “blue diaper syndrome,” which is characterized by incomplete intestinal breakdown of tryptophan, a dietary nutrient. consult a doctor.
13. dark brown or black. benign causes include ingestion of large amounts of rhubarb, fava beans, or aloe. Some medications also darken urine. however, of more concern are possible causes, such as copper or phenol poisoning or melanoma, which can cause blackish urine called melanuria. consult your doctor.
14. white or milky. this can be due to an overabundance of certain minerals, such as calcium or phosphate, a urinary tract infection, or too much protein. Consult your doctor.