You pee more often in a day than you might eat — at least six to eight times, and maybe even more if you're drinking the right amount of water. It's no wonder that the study of urine, or urinalysis (no, I didn't make that word up), has been around for hundreds of years. According to Dr. Tomas Griebling, vice chair of the urology department at the University of Kansas, it's "one of the original windows into what's happening in the body." Doctors today still rely on pee to tell a true story about someone's health.
Your kidneys are a complicated filtration system, and while you're busy milling about your day, not even thinking about them in the slightest, they're working hard to sift through 200 liters of your blood. That means no matter how much you try to hide what you ate or drank over the weekend, whatever comes out of those kidneys is a dead giveaway of what you've been up to. Since your urine is a compilation of the waste that's been swimming around in your body, it says a lot about what kind of health issues you're facing, whether it's a bacterial infection or early onset diabetes.
So whether your urine is looking cloudy, bright yellow, or even red, don't ignore your pee; it could be the most reliable health guru you've ever had. Here are seven important things your urine can tell you about your health.
1. "You Have A Urinary Tract Infection"
Anyone who has ever had a UTI knows all about the cruel stinging sensation (and may be haunted by it forever) — but that's not the only giveaway you have a UTI. The following also might indicate an unfriendly infection: having to go pronto all the time, yet only the tiniest bit trickles out; a pungent odor that reminds you a bit of ammonia; and pee that is gloomy-looking and cloudy.
Out of all the warning signs, the murkiness of your urine is one that shouldn't be taken lightly. The cloudiness is your bladder releasing built-up blood or pus that has nowhere else to go; in other words, the infection is working overtime to grab your attention.
2. "You're Dehydrated"
Dehydration manifests in all sorts of colors and smells. You might think that a yellow-filled toilet bowl is a good sign. No so fast, though. The shade of yellow matters; if you see a dark or amber tone, you need to spend more time around the water cooler. Other colors indicating that you're desperately in need of H2O are orange and brown.
You're definitely also dehydrated if your urine is also emitting a strong, irksome scent that reminds you of ammonia. Beware if you aren't going to the bathroom as often as normal, or, when you finally do go to relieve yourself, your pee barely trickles out and it seems concentrated.
Cloudy pee points to being dehydrated as well. When you're not drinking enough water, there are countless protein or crystalline substances in your body that aren't being properly processed. They end up congregating in your bladder; then they exit the body as ominously foamy urine.
3. "You're Getting Enough B12!"
Before you freak out that you're dehydrated, know that if you're an avid taker of vitamin B12, it's easy to get confused by what your pee is trying to tell you. Consuming a lot of this particular vitamin, whether it's through food or a supplement, turns your urine bright or dark yellow, or even orange. So before you jump the gun and scare yourself into chugging a gallon of water, take a look at your diet and vitamins and see if B12 isn't the culprit.
If you're drinking enough water and want to test if the color is a sign of something else, you could always stop taking your multivitamin for a few days and see if the color changes.
4. "Your Kidneys Are Damaged"
Is your pee bright red? Unless you've recently consumed a decent hunk of beets — in which case, you'd be facing not-so-serious beeturia — your kidneys aren't very happy with the way you've been treating them. You might have kidney stones or cysts, or an infection that needs to be treated, stat. If you're cringing every time you pee from the discomfort, don't waste any time to get yourself checked out.
Sometimes, your body also tries to tell you that you've got a kidney disorder by spouting pee that is dark brown, murky, and/or bloody. These colors and textures are likely present because of kidney stones, which irritate the ureter, the tube responsible for transporting urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and generate troublesome looking urine.
Characteristics like these are often connected with extreme levels of exercising, such as running for long distances, since the continuous harsh impact takes a toll on the bladder and can disturb the otherwise normal appearance of urine.
Yet another sign of damaged kidneys is bubbles that appear in your urine. Dr. Leslie Spry, a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation, writes for Huffington Post and says that these particular fizzles are stubborn, and they won't just go away with a flush. What they really are is protein, and protein-filled pee is one of the earliest signs of unhealthy kidneys.
5. "You Have A Red Blood Cell Disorder"
Rare and grossly fascinating though it is, purple pee is a real thing, and if you see a violet hue staring back at you from the toilet bowl, it could mean you've been dealing with a rare red blood cell disorder called porphyria. Most likely inherited from your parents, it causes your body to manufacture abnormally high levels of porphyrins, which are responsible for producing hemoglobins, a protein in red blood cells that binds iron and carries oxygen to all your organs.
Too many porphyrins in your system negatively affect the levels of heme, a component of hemoglobin, in the liver, causing an imbalance of enzymes and a buildup of chemical compounds. This could wreak havoc on your organs and nervous system.
There isn't a cure for porphyria, but it can definitely be managed through lifestyle choices, so chat with your doctor right away if you spot purple pee in your toilet.
6. "You Have Liver Problems"
When doctors are diagnosing a liver disease, one of the first things they do is take a good look at the patient's urine. A dark color is no good, as it points to jaundice or cholestasis, both of which are symptoms of an unhappy liver, and orange or brown shades tints don't bode well either. If you're catching a whiff of something unpleasantly musty (think of the stuff that's sitting in your parents' attic), let that be the final nudge to chat with your doctor about the state of your liver.
7. "You Have Diabetes"
Sugar in the urine is a red flag, and if you are picking up on a sweet smell every time you go for a Number 1, you should probably get tested for diabetes. Dr. Griebling says that when the body is holding onto too much sugar, the kidneys have to work overtime to try to get it out of the system; hence the icky, candy-like scent.
Are you dealing with the constant urge to go as well? An overactive bladder could be a symptom of diabetes. Check with your doctor immediately if these sound like familiar bodily functions, because just being in pre-diabetes mode can seriously damage your kidneys in the long run if you're not taking the necessary precautions.
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