Nobody talks about urine in polite company, but it says a lot about you. Its odor, consistency and color are all tell-tale indicators of your lifestyle and well-being, ranging from what you’ve been eating and drinking lately to diseases you might not know you have.
Urine is mostly water (at least 95 percent), but the remainder is a surprisingly complex brew of ingredients that include urea, chloride, sodium, potassium, creatinine and other dissolved ions, plus various inorganic and organic compounds. The most common urine color is yellow, which is caused by the presence of urobilin, a biochemical waste product generated from 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 next time you’re standing around, wondering:
Looks like: Water
Colorless urine may indicate over-hydration. While not as dangerous as dehydration, over-hydration can dilute essential salts, such as electrolytes, creating a problematic chemical imbalance in the blood.
2. LIGHT YELLOW URINE COLOR
Looks like: Pale straw color
This is normal and says you’re well hydrated. Keep up the good work.
Looks like: A dirty martini
If your urine color has a dirty martini look to it, you could have a bladder infection. The cloudiness comes from mucus, tissues and proteins that are breaking down and coalescing.
4. MEDIUM YELLOW URINE COLOR
Looks like: Lemonade
You might be dehydrated. Time to drink some water.
5. DARK YELLOW
Looks like: Apple juice
Seriously, drink something, would you? Also, if you went heavy on B vitamins, that could be contributing.
Looks like: Tang
OK, now you’re really dehydrated and need water, stat. Orange-hued urine color could also signal the presence of bilirubin, a yellowish byproduct of the natural breakdown of old red blood cells, warns Jill Buckley, M.D., also from UCSD. This could be due to a gallstone blocking the bile duct, which drains bilirubin, or to liver disease. Some medications for urinary tract infections can give your pee a vivid Tang-ling tinge.
Looks like: White Zinfandel
Did you eat a lot of beets last night? Because that could do it. But it could also be blood. “Just a drop of blood in urine turns it pink,” says Sur. While a general practitioner might wave that off as no big deal, Sur says that any blood in the urine warrants a visit to the urologist, as it could be due to infection, or an early sign of bladder cancer. (It probably isn’t cancer, but better safe than sorry.)
8. DARKER PINK
Looks like: Cabernet
This could mean that there’s more than a tiny bit of blood in your urine, which could signal a potential bladder infection or cancer. Kidney stones, which about 10 percent of the U.S. population gets, can also cause blood in the urine, as can less common bladder stones.
9. DARK PINK
Looks like: Merlot
OK, that’s a lot of blood. And what’s more concerning is that it could be old blood, which turns dark as it clots and breaks down. “The presence of old blood is very worrisome because it suggests a significant amount of blood,” Sur warns. It also could mean that whatever’s causing the bleeding has been around for a while. He always errs on the side of caution: If there’s a lot of (potentially old) blood, “I want to put a scope inside. As far as I’m concerned, it’s cancer until proven otherwise.”
Looks like: Coke
Certain drugs, such as the anti-malarial chloroquine and an antibiotic called metronidazole, can give urine color of a cola-like hue. So can bingeing on fava beans or rhubarb, according to the Mayo Clinic. That flat Coke look could also be caused by some liver and kidney disorders, or from exercising way too hard. Your muscles use myoglobin to capture oxygen for energy. If you overdo it at the gym and cause significant muscle damage, the myoglobin can seep out into your bloodstream and make its way into your urine, causing it to turn dark brown. Definitely see a doctor for a myoglobin urine test; too much myoglobin in the blood can overwhelm your kidneys and lead to kidney failure.
Looks like: A Jell-O shot
It’s possible that eating a ton of food tinted with artificial dyes can paint your pee in carnival colors. More likely, it’s a side effect of medication such as Uribel, which is used to treat UTIs. The effect comes courtesy of the ingredient methylene blue. It’s nothing to worry about. Keep taking your pills with lots of water, and enjoy the weirdness.