When it comes to going for a wee, most of us get the job done, flush, wash our hands, then head off on our merry way.
But maybe we should be taking a little more notice of the toilet bowl when we pee, because the colour of your urine can actually be a really good indicator of your health.
“The colour of the wee can depend on lots of things, like what you have eaten, medication you might be taking and how dehydrated you are,” explains Dr Richard Parkinson, Consultant Urologist for BMI at the Park Hospital in Nottingham.
“But there are also some illnesses that can make the wee change colour too.”
According to Dr Parkinson, the colour of your pee actually gives an idea of hydration levels, with dark yellow colours suggesting you’re not drinking enough water.
“Most people drink about 1.5L fluid per day, but sometimes you need more than this if you are working in a hot environment or exercising a lot,” he says.
“If the urine becomes yellow or orange, then you are getting slightly dehydrated and should aim to drink more; ideally, the urine should be a pale yellow or clear colour.”
While the optimum urine colour is pale straw, if your pee is a lighter colour than this could indicate that you’re drinking more water than you need to. And while this is generally harmless, it might need to more frequent trips to the loo.
Dr Parkinson says that when we’re dehydrated, urine becomes more concentrated as the body tries to hold onto as much water as it can.
“This is not ideal and can make you more prone to urine infections and kidney stones, for example. People who have had a kidney stone in the past need to be particularly careful not to allow themselves to become dehydrated as the risk of further stones is significantly higher if they do.”
But the colour pee that offers the most cause for concern is red. While this could be down to the foods you’ve eaten, beetroot can totally turn your pee red, it could also be an indicator of something more serious.
“The main concern is if the urine shows signs of possible blood,” Dr Parkinson explains. “If the urine is red or pink, then this could be blood in the urine. The blood might be coming from the kidneys or bladder.”
Common causes of blood in your pee are urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney stones, but the main thing is to rule out something more dangerous like cancer.
“Cancers of the kidney, bladder or prostate can all cause mild bleeding in the urine. Whenever people have had blood in the urine, we would recommend a scan of the kidneys (eg ultrasound or CT) and a bladder inspection with a flexible telescope (cystoscopy,) which can be done in the clinic fairly simply. Most people have reassuringly normal results, but it is essential to get this checked out.”
And though rare, green pee is also a thing. Again what you have eaten can be to blame, asparagus and food containing artificial colourings can turn your wee bright green, but according to Cosmopolitan in a tiny amount of cases it could be a sign of the rare genetic disease familial hypercalcemia, which causes abnormally high calcium levels in the blood.
Green urine can also occur as a side effect of certain medications.
But while its good to keep track of your wee colour Dr Parkinson is keen to stress that most of the medical conditions that different coloured wee can indicate are extremely rare so people shouldn’t get too concerned.
“Blood is the main thing to look out for, and if you are in any doubt, then get advice from your GP or a urologist,” he says.
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