What your Urine Says about your Health

Check before you flush. (photo from www.expertmedicine.com)
Check before you flush. (photo from www.expertmedicine.com)
Check before you flush. (photo from www.expertmedicine.com)

Have you ever paid attention to you urine whenever you are in the loo?

Like everyone else, you probably don’t. But do you know that your urine and how you eliminate it reveals a lot about what you eat, how much you’ve been drinking and the diseases that you might have.

The changes in our urine, its color, odor, and consistency, can provide important clues about our health because many of the substances circulating in our body, including bacteria, yeast, excess protein and sugar, eventually make their way into the urine. Urine’s main function is to get rid of toxins or things that would be bad for the body.

Before you flush, here are a few urine changes to look out for, and what they might be saying about your health:

Bright yellow to orange
Don’t be too alarmed because the usual cause of urine turning neon yellow to orange is most likely just the food you ate or your daily multivitamin pill. The B vitamins and carotene in particular give the urine a deeper, more golden color. The urine color can be affected as the vitamins filter through your system—even as they are being absorbed and utilized. If food (like carrots, beets and vitamins aren’t the cause, it might be drugs. Medications like the antibiotic rifampin (Rifadin), blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin), some laxatives and chemotherapy drugs, may also dye urine orange.

Brown
Chowing down on fava beans, rhubarb or aloe might turn urine brown, but it can also be caused by some medications, such as antimalarial drugs, antibiotics, laxatives and muscle relaxants. But if none of what’s mentioned isn’t the culprit, then see your doctor immediately. Brown urine could also suggest a liver problem, such as hepatitis (an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus or toxins) or cirrhosis, a condition that damages liver cells. The color may also be caused by dried blood from the kidney, bladder or urinary tract, or from an infection or tumor. If it appears dark orange bordering brown, it could mean too much bile is being excreted into your urine, which is a sign of liver or gastrointestinal problem.

Light Yellow
If your urine looks like lemonade knock-off, then that’s fairly normal. The yellow comes from bile produced by the liver and excreted in urine, which is what’s normally excreted by the body.
If it’s very light yellow, you may be overhydrated, but as long as you don’t have a major condition, like kidney failure, it’s not dangerous. Your body just gets rid of the extra fluid.

Blue-Green 

If you’re seeing cooler tones in your urine, it may be caused by  color-changing medications or vitamins. Blue or greenish urine is very common from over-the-counter drugs, such as AZO [phenazopyridine] or Prosed [methenamine], that reduce the burning discomfort from UTIs.
If you’ve also undergone medical procedures such as X-rays or computed axial tomography (CAT) scans, those that involve intravenous dyes, like methylene blue or indigo carmine, you might see a corresponding color in your urine.

If none of the above causes explain the color, you may have a bacterial infection called pseudomonas, with the bacteria turning blue if your urine is acidic. Don’t fret too much, though, as  pseudomonas can be quickly treated with antibiotics.

Pink, Red or Bloody
Blueberries, beets  and rhubarb may turn your urine pink. If you ate the above mentioned foods and  if your urine isn’t clear in 24 hours, see a doctor. You could also be bleeding from vigorous exercise caused by the bruising of the kidneys from strenuous running or weight lifting. More dangerous causes are deadly toxins like lead or mercury. Kidney stones, tumors, a serious infection and kidney or bladder cancer can also cause blood in your urine. If you’re seeing red, let a doctor tell you why. Red urine is the most serious flare your urine can send up. A doctor will order an X-ray or CAT scan of your kidneys and then do a cystoscopic exam, inserting a scope into your bladder through the urethra to check for infection and tumors.

Clear
The lighter the color of your urine, the more hydrated you are. Light urine’s no problem except  that there’s a tendency for you to overpee.

Cloudy

It can mean that you have some phosphate in your urine, which can lead to kidney stones. If your urine is constantly cloudy, it could also mean that you have an infection, (probably pus from an infection in the urethra), like UTI. In most cases, a UTI can be unpleasant but is usually not dangerous if you get prompt treatment. However, untreated UTIs can lead to severe or chronic kidney infections (pyelonephritis), which could permanently harm your kidneys. If cloudiness gets worse and you experience burning or urgency, go see a doctor.

Smelly
Urine normally doesn’t smell sweet, its odor is more like ammonia. If you’ve eaten asparagus, which requires a certain enzyme that smells like the liquid emitted by skunks for breakdown,  then your pee may smell like rotten eggs or spoiled cabbage. If asparagus isn’t the cause, see a doctor. Ninety-nine times out of a 100, smelly urine means an infection.

Sweet smelling
A sugary smell might indicate the presence of blood sugar that’s being excreted in the urine, and a high concentration of blood sugar in the urine is one sign of diabetes. The kidney acts as a filter for all sorts of waste that flows through the body. But if your filter is damaged, things can leak out of it and end up being excreted in the urine. In the case of diabetes, excess blood sugar sneaks out through a leaky filter and shows up in the urine. If you are pregnant, changes in the kidney filtration system can result in the presence of sugar in the urine. Whether pregnant or not, if a doctor finds sugar in your urine, he or she should order further tests to determine if diabetes is a concern.

Always gotta go
If you feel like you always have to go, there may be several causes. First, have a look at  your diet and lifestyle. If you’ve suddenly picked up the habit of toting a water bottle with you everywhere and have greatly increased your H2O intake, the reason could be as simple as the fact that you’re filling your bladder up more often and more quickly than you used to—and, consequently, it needs to be emptied more frequently than it used to. Or maybe you’ve recently changed your diet to include foods that contain more water (such as fruits and vegetables) and act as diuretics, or begun taking medications (like those used to treat high blood pressure) which are also diuretics. You may also find yourself always needing to go often if you have UTI. One of the common symptoms of a urinary tract infection is an urgent need to pee (often without being able to once you get to the toilet). Growing older can also be a factor for increased frequency and urgency in both men and women—as the way the kidney and the bladder make and discharge urine changes with age. For men, though, the prostate may play a role as prostates, when enlarged, could cause an obstruction that causes weak urine flow and prevents the bladder from emptying effectively, which then creates the need to go more often. There are many possible causes, and unless you are going so often that it’s truly affecting your life, frequent bathroom urges probably are not cause for concern.

A little leakage when you’re not supposed to.
A lot of women, even those who have never gone through childbirth, experience some type of urinary incontinence, a condition in which the muscles of the pelvic floor can’t handle the increased pressure of high impact activities like running or gymnastics, or even something like coughing or sneezing. When the pelvic floor is too weak to withstand that sort of pressure, the result is that a small amount of urine will leak out. The best solution is to strengthen the pelvic floor by regularly doing Kegel exercises (in which you repeatedly contract and release those muscles as if you were trying to stop your flow of urine).

A burning sensation when peeing.
If you are suddenly experiencing pain when you pee, it’s highly likely that you are experiencing one of the first signs of a urinary tract infection which is common among sexually active and pre-menopausal women. This is because the urinary canal is in close proximity with the vagina and rectum, which makes it very easy for bacteria to find its way into the urethra and up the urinary canal. Oral antibiotics can clear the infection up within days, and increasing fluids can help flush out bacteria to shorten the duration of the infection. UTI  is a much rarer for men, but they can happen.  Burning sensation when peeing can also signal an infection of the prostate.

Observing your  urine and how you pee may seem eccentric, but if it’s gonna dave your life, then it’s probably worth the humor.

Web References:

http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/features/the-truth-about-urine

http://www.lifescript.com/health/centers/oab/articles/what_your_urine_says_about_your_health.aspx?

http://www.active.com/nutrition/Articles/What-Your-Urine-Says-About-Your-Health

http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/what-your-urine-is-telling-you-about-your-health-1