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What Does the Color and Odor of Your Urine Say About Your Health

What Does the Color and Odor of Your Urine Say About Your Health

Last Updated on Jul 28, 2021
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Know About your Urine

We usually do not give much thought to our urine before we flush it out of our sight daily; however, not many know that the simple characteristics of urine such as color, volume, and odor can speak volumes about our body’s health.


Urine is your body’s fluid waste, and is primarily made up of water, salt, and chemicals such as urea and uric acid. The urine is formed in the kidneys when they filter out toxins and waste products from your blood. Normal urine is sterile till it reaches the urethra to be thrown out.

Color and Odor of Your Urine Says About Your Health

The human urine has been a useful tool for diagnosing many medical conditions. Slight alterations in characteristics of the urine can be early warning signals for diseases such as kidney stones, infections, metabolic disorders, diabetes, and even tumors. At the same time, it must be remembered that there is no perfect urine as its color and quantity changes according to your diet, lifestyle, intake of medications or supplements, water intake, level of physical activity and health.

Urine and Peeing Patterns

We produce almost 1 to 1.5 liters of urine every day in 4-8 trips to the washroom. As a general rule, you may not need to pass urine more than 8 times during the day and more than once in the night. The amount of urine your bladder can hold depends roughly upon your age. Older people are unable to hold more urine and would need to answer nature’s call frequently. Roughly, a 30-year-old woman may be able to hold approximately 500 ml urine in the bladder, while a lady above 80 years of age may only be able to hold 300 ml. The number of times you use the washroom also depends on how well hydrated you are. If you use the washroom 10 times and have consumed 5 liters water, it is normal. However, if you need to use the washroom frequently despite a low water intake, this may be a cause of concern.

The normal urine pattern can be greatly affected by your food, medications, and vitamin intake. It is important to urinate when you feel the urge for it. Delay in urination can cause bladder over-distension and other problems.


Urine Color: What does it Indicate?

The color of normal urine ranges from pale yellow to deep amber. The yellow coloration of urine is due to the pigment urochrome, which is produced because of the breakdown of hemoglobin from the red blood cells. Straw colored to transparent yellow is the urine color of a well-hydrated healthy body, while low water intake causes a more concentrated and darker urine. A sudden change in urine color may either signal a benign issue such as a urinary tract infection or even a more serious medical condition such as kidney or bladder cancer.

What are the Causes of Unusual Colors to the Urine?

  • Bright yellow- This happens due to intake of multivitamins that contain riboflavin or vitamin B2. Riboflavin is naturally fluorescent when exposed to ultraviolet light. Your body excretes out extra riboflavin in the urine which has been taken either through supplements or diet. Food such as eggs, organ meats, lean meats and dairy products also contain riboflavin. You need not worry although such a color may look unusual.
  • Brownish yellow- A brownish yellow color to your urine makes it look like apple juice. It means that the urine is concentrated and you are very dehydrated. It often happens when you exercise more and forget to hydrate yourself. Therefore, if you are working out more, it is necessary to drink more water.
  • Brown - The presence of myoglobin in the urine causes brown discoloration. Myoglobin is a protein found in the muscles. Damage or death of the muscle fibers which could occur due to several reasons including trauma and snake bites, releases myoglobin into the blood stream, which then passes out in the urine. This condition requires prompt medical care to prevent permanent damage to the kidney. Drugs like metronidazole and nitrofurantoin also cause brown-colored urine.
Causes of Unusual Colors to the Urine
  • Greenish blue or orange - These colors can be quite disturbing to see in your urine. Greenish urine may occur following intake of large amounts of asparagus or black liquorice. A drug called phenazopyridine used as a urinary tract analgesic for urinary tract infections and irritations could turn your urine orange. The anti-tubercular drugs rifampin and isoniazid also give the urine an orange color. The discoloration clears up when you stop the medications.
  • Pink or crimson - This commonly occurs when you have eaten too much of beetroot. The pigments in beet can turn your urine pinkish red. It is not harmful and resolves on its own. However, if it does not subside, it would be best to test your urine sample for blood. Blood in urine could signal a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or sometimes cancer. It is best to seek medical advice as some cancers bleed intermittently with no other major symptom.
  • Cloudy white - Often, your urine may appear cloudy white in color due to the presence of pus, which is excreted out in the urine. It may occur in a really bad urinary tract infection or kidney stones.
  • Foamy or fizzy urine - This normally occurs when there is protein in your urine and your urine looks like soapy foamy water. You will need to check with your doctor as this could indicate kidney disease.

Urine Smell: What does it Indicate?

Normally, urine does not have a strong smell; however, sometimes it may give out a strong pungent smell due to ammonia. This happens when you have an infection, kidney stone, or are dehydrated. Dehydration causes your urine to become concentrated and gives it a stronger smell than normal.

What are the Causes of Unusual Odors of the Urine?

Unusual odors of urine indicate some kind of disorder in the body that needs to be addressed.

  • Foul smell- Bacteria that cause urinary tract infection can cause a foul smell. Other symptoms of urinary tract infection which accompany the foul smell are burning during urination, fever, chills, and back pain.
  • Sweet smell- A sweet smell to the urine may be a sign of diabetes or liver disease.
  • Musty smelling- Phenylketonuria, a type of metabolic disorder causes musty smell to the urine.
Causes of Unusual Odors of the Urine

How Often do you use the Loo?

Normally, you pee about 6-8 times a day, and this can vary depending upon how much water you drink and whether you engage in physical activity or not. Increased urination may be caused by one of the following conditions:

  • Diabetes, which is also accompanied by increased thirst and increased hunger
  • Pregnancy, since the enlarged uterus puts pressure on the urinary bladder
  • Prostate problems, which result in incomplete emptying of the urine
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Overactive bladder
  • Intake of medications like diuretics
  • Psychological conditions like anxiety
  • In rare cases, cancers of the urinary bladder or the pelvic region

Health Tips

  • Drink about 6-8 glasses of water a day.
  • If you have a history of kidney stones, increase your water intake.
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake as these irritate the bladder lining.
  • Reduce sugar intake and increase magnesium in your diet.
  • Do not hold your urine if you feel the urge to urinate. This is detrimental to your bladder health.
Do Not Hold In Your Pee As It Could Result In A Bladder Infection
  1. Mentes, J., Wakefield, B., & Culp, K. (n.d.). Use of a Urine Color Chart to Monitor Hydration Status in Nursing Home Residents. Biological Research for Nursing, 197-203.
  2. Kavouras, S. (n.d.). Assessing hydration status. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 519-524.

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