It’s something that all of us do every day, and yet it is something that is not discussed in polite company. However, your urine actually says a lot about you—its colour, odour and consistency are all indicative of your lifestyle and well-being. Human urine has been a useful diagnostic tool since the earliest days of medicine, and you can learn a lot about what’s going on inside your body by taking a look at what’s coming out of it.
The three major factors that affect the colour of your urine are food you have eaten, drugs you have taken, or health issues, says consultant uro-oncological and robotic surgeon for Lilavati Hospital, Breach Candy Hospital, and Saifee Hospital (Mumbai) and Asian Institute of Oncology, Welcare (Dubai), Dr Anup Ramani. In a discussion with Dr Ramani, we have come up with a helpful colour chart that you can use to decipher what your urine is trying to tell you:
Typically, the healthier you are, the lighter the colour of your urine is. At least, that’s what the common belief is. In reality, while clear urine might suggest a healthy, hydrated body to you, it might actually be a sign of over-hydration. It’s not as dangerous as dehydration, but it can dilute essential salts, such as electrolytes, creating a problematic chemical imbalance in the blood. It could even be a sign of diabetes!
What To Do: You’re drinking a lot of water, and might want to cut back: the commonly recommended daily water consumption amount for an average adult male is about four litres. If you still notice symptoms such as increased thirst and frequent urination, consult your doctor.
This is what we’re all aiming for. The yellow colour of urine comes from a chemical by-product that results when the kidneys do their job of processing waste, and the pale yellow colour shows just the right balance between over and under-hydration.
What To Do: You’re healthy and well hydrated. Don’t let that change!
This is the darkest end of the normal colour spectrum, and is a sign that you’re not drinking enough water. If you don’t keep your body hydrated, then the waste products that your body is supposed to be getting rid of don’t get diluted. This in turn causes the dark yellow colour.
What To Do: Increase your water intake to the daily recommended amount, and talk to your doctor about it!
A darker shade is another indicator of possible dehydration, or it could just be something you ate. However, it could also be a sign of something more serious. There are several foods that could cause the orange colour, such as blackberries or rhubarb. Dark amber or orange urine can signify blood in the urine or a potential liver or kidney disorder, or a urinary tract infection. Jaundice, for example, can cause bile to show up in your urine, giving it that orange colour.
What To Do: You can tell if the waste in your urine is over-concentrated by the odour that accompanies it. Whether the dark colour is due to lack of water, something you ate, or something more serious, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor.
Unless you’ve been eating a lot of blackberries or beets, this is a serious matter. Blood in the urine, which is called hematuria, could be a sign of kidney disease, urinary tract infections, tumours, prostrate problems, or even mercury poisoning.
What To Do: Red urine is a red flag to consult your doctor right away!.
As with all urine colours, there are a lot of causes for your urine to turn black. These can be divided into three major categories—food, medicine, or health related. If you've eaten a large amount of food or medicine which uses black colouring, you can safely attribute the black colour to it. However, if you rule them out, it becomes a more worrisome matter. Copper poisoning or melanoma could cause black urine, also called melanuria.
What To Do: Consult your doctor immediately!
While it may be unsettling to see green urine, it is most likely caused by something you ate. Asparagus is a natural cause of green urine, but artificial food dyes are more likely culprits. There is a chance, however, that it is caused by bile or diarrhoea, or a urinary tract infection.
What To Do: While the green tint is probably due to something you have taken into your body, it’s always a good idea to check with a doctor if you’re still in doubt.
Dyes are the most common reason you’d be seeing blue in the toilet, either from your food or your medication. An extremely rare genetic disease called hypercalcemia, or ‘blue diaper syndrome’, caused by too much calcium in your bones, could also cause the colour change, but it is highly unlikely.
What To Do: Even if it looks like something out of Avatar, it is probably going to be something you’ve ingested rather than a health issue.
So, the next time you empty your bladder, don’t be in a rush to hit the flush!