Diet, hydration, medications and certain health conditions can all affect how your urine looks.
Do you look before you flush? If not, you might want to start.
Whether it’s the color of straw or syrup, your urine offers some interesting insight into your health. And keeping track of it could help you head off potential problems, both big and small.
What's a normal urine color?
Urine is made up of water, salt, urea and uric acid and is your body’s way of getting rid of things it doesn’t need.
“Urine gets its color from urochrome, a chemical produced when your body breaks down dead blood cells,” says Susan Werner, MD, a family medicine provider at Geisinger Nanticoke. “Depending on how hydrated you are, what you’ve eaten and the medications you’re taking, it’s normal for the color to vary within a certain range.”
Typically, healthy urine includes shades from pale to dark yellow, but everyone has their own normal. “How your urine looks is a good indicator of what’s going on inside your body, so it’s worth noticing any changes over time,” explains Dr. Werner.
What your urine says about your health
Before you flush after your next bathroom break, notice how your urine looks. Is it cloudy? Clear? Slightly pink? Here’s what the color of your pee could mean:
The more hydrated you are, the clearer your pee. So, crystal clear urine must be a good thing, right? Not necessarily.
“Overhydration can throw off your body’s balance of electrolytes like sodium,” explains Dr. Werner. “These minerals keep your muscles and nerves working properly. Having too much water in your system flushes them out.”
Clear urine could also be caused by medications like diuretics. It’s usually nothing to worry about and should resolve by reducing your fluid intake.
Pale yellow is the gold standard when it comes to healthy urine color. It’s a sign you’re appropriately hydrated, and your body is functioning normally.
Dark yellow urine is still within the normal range, but it may mean you’re approaching dehydration. It's not uncommon to notice your pee is darker in the morning after first waking up. Increasing how much water you’re drinking should help it return to a lighter yellow.
If multivitamins or supplements are part of your daily routine, you might notice bright yellow or neon pee. This is caused by an excess of B vitamins that your body can’t absorb.
Amber or honey
A warm honey tint to your urine is most likely due to severe dehydration, especially if you notice other signs like dizziness, dry mouth, muscle cramps or frequent headaches. Start upping your water intake or talk to your doctor about ways to safely rehydrate.
Cola- or tea-colored pee can be caused by a variety of different factors including extreme dehydration, diet (like fava beans, rhubarb or aloe) or some antibiotics. Consistently brown urine could also be a sign of liver problems.
If you’ve ever taken the drug phenazopyridine for urinary tract infections (UTIs), you’re probably familiar with orange urine. Dehydration and high doses of vitamin C or beta carotene (what makes carrots orange) could also be the culprit. If you notice this frequently, it could be an indication of liver or gall bladder problems.
Pink or red
Pink or red pee could be because of medications, eating certain foods like beets and blueberries or the presence of blood from a UTI, kidney disease, tumor or prostate problem. It’s a good idea to call your doctor if you notice this.
Blue or green
Blue or green urine? Yep, it can happen. These cooler tones could be caused by food dyes, antibiotics or bacteria in your urinary tract. As startling as it may be, it’s usually not an emergency, but call your doctor if it keeps happening.
If you notice your pee is cloudy or milky, it might mean you have a UTI, kidney stones or a sexually transmitted infection. Keep an eye out for other symptoms like pain or discomfort.
Foaming or fizzing
Although not a color, fizzy or foamy pee is another trait to pay attention to. Some foam is normal as urine reacts with water or cleaning chemicals in your toilet. But if it gets worse over time, foam might be a sign of kidney disease or diabetes.
The hue is a clue
While the shade of your urine can offer helpful insights into your overall health, it's only one small piece of the puzzle.
“Most of the time, color variations are nothing to worry about,” says Dr. Werner. “What’s most important is letting your primary care provider know about any additional symptoms or long-term changes.”
With that in mind, taking a peek before you flush is an easy way to better understand your body.
“Keeping track of your urine color is one of the simplest things you can do to monitor your health,” said Dr. Werner. “It may help you identify and address a minor problem before it becomes something more serious.”