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Listen to your pee… It can tell you a lot about your health

by , 02 July 2014

Consider this the next time you're about to flush - you may be sending important health information down the toilet. And that's why I recommend you give your urine a little more respect.

You see changes in your urine - its colour, odour and consistency - can provide important clues about the health of your body. Your urine can reveal what you've been eating, how much you've been drinking and what diseases you could have.

"Urine and urinalysis have, for hundreds of years, been one of the ways physicians have looked at health," says Tomas Griebling, vice chair of the urology department at the University of Kansas. That's because many of the substances in your body like bacteria, yeast, excess protein and sugar eventually make their way into your pee.

So before you flush, here are a few urine colour changes to look out for, and what they might be saying about your health…

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What causes the colour of your urine to change?

Normal urine colour ranges from pale yellow to deep amber. If it doesn’t fall into this range, here are a few things you need to watch out for:

1)     Dark brown / deep red urine:
  • Food – fava beans, rhubarb or aloe.
  • Medication – Some anti-malarial drugs, antibiotics and muscle relaxants.
  • Medical conditions – Liver and kidney disorders and a urinary tract infections like hepatitis.
2)     Red or pink urine: (you don’t always have to panic)
  • Blood – Factors that could cause urinary blood are urinary tract infections, enlarged prostate, cancerous and non-cancerous tumours, kidney cysts, long-distance running and kidney or bladder stones.
  • Foods – Beetroot, blackberries and rhubarb.
  • Medications – Antibiotics used for TB, urinary tract discomfort and laxatives.
  • Toxins – Lead or mercury poisoning.
3)     Bright yellow / orange urine is hard to miss. Blame it on:
  • Medications – Multi-vitamins and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Medical conditions – You could have a problem with your liver or bile duct, especially if you also have light-coloured stools. Orange urine can also mean that you’re dehydrated. "Your body needs a certain amount of fluid to function, so the body will hold on to fluid and the urine will become very strong and concentrated. When that happens, it will turn a darker colour." Griebling says.  The opposite is also true. If your urine is very pale, it means that you're either drinking a lot of fluid, or you're taking a diuretic.
4)     Blue or green urine doesn’t mean that you’re an alien:
  • Dyes – Some brightly coloured food dyes can cause green urine. Dyes used to test your kidney and bladder functions can turn it blue.
  • Medication – A number of medications can produce blue or green urine.
  • Medical conditions – “Blue diaper syndrome” is a rare inherited disorder. Children with this disorder have blue urine. Green urine sometimes occurs during a urinary tract infection because of the bacteria.
5)     Cloudy or murky urine:
  • Medical conditions – Urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
6)     Foaming or fizzing pee: (No… you didn’t drink too much soda)
  • Food – Excess protein
  • Medical condition – Kidney problems

How to keep your urinary tract happy

The most important factor in keeping your urinary tract happy is to drink plenty of pure, fresh water every day. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, which can irritate the lining of your bladder. Finally, don't hold it in. As soon as you feel the urge to go… Go!

You should now have a pretty good idea of how important it is to familiarise yourself with what’s normal for your pee. Urine is a window into the inner workings of your body and can function as an “early warning system” for detecting health problems.

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