Should our pee be clear or gold (and should it smell)?

In yesterday’s post, I talked about how to watch our poop for signs of health.

Today, let’s talk about pee (and how we can watch our health without needing a doctor).

Urination facts

On average, our kidneys will filter over 1,000,000 gallons of water over our lifetime. This is about the same amount of water that could fill a small lake.

We have two kidneys. Yet, one can handle the job on its own. In fact, if we lose a kidney, our backup kidney will increase its size by 50% within 60 days to take over the job of both.

Up to 96% of our pee consists of water. Our urine is sterile, too (because it contains no living organisms – unless we have a urinary tract infection).

Our pee contains an assortment of inorganic salts and organic compounds… This includes proteins, hormones, and a wide range of metabolites.

The pH level of human urine is normally within the range of 5.5 to 7 with an average of 6.2. This means our pee is slightly acidic.

So what about the urine color?

Our urine gets its color from “Urochrome”. Depending on our hydration level, Urochrome (or Urobilin) makes our pee appear straw-colored, yellow, or amber.

The things we digest turn urine anything from fluorescent green to blue, and eating carrots can give it an orange hue. For example, vitamins often make our pee appear a brighter yellow color. On the other end, bad health can cause our pee to be the color of port wine. Plants such as beets, blackberries, rhubarb, fava beans, and berries affect the color of our urine. Even severe dehydration can also produce urine the color of amber.

Let’s dive further into the weeds about urine

Pale Straw, Amber or Honey Pee Color:
Generally, we are either drinking a lot of fluid, or we are taking a diuretic drug that forces the body to get rid of excess water.
Dark Yellow Urine Color:
Usually, a sign that we are not drinking enough fluids. Our body requires a certain amount of fluid to function. So, our body holds on to fluid and the urine will become very strong and concentrated. When that happens, it will turn a darker color.
Black Pee Color:
This is not good: causes can include nitrofurantoin, metronidazole, cascara or senna laxatives, methocarbamol, sorbitol, and the phenol derivative cresol.

Intramuscular iron injections are also associated with black urine as a benign effect of the medication.

Blue Pee:
The medical condition hypercalcemia (blue diaper syndrome) can cause blue urine (as can Hartnup disease).
Dark Brown or Cola Urine Color:
Can be caused by medications such as chloroquine and primaquine, antibiotics metronidazole (Flagyl) and nitrofurantoin, laxatives containing cascara or senna, and methocarbamol.

Muscle injury from extreme exercise can bring upon pink or cola-colored urine and kidney damage.

Eating lots of fava beans, rhubarb or aloe can also bring upon dark-brown urine.

In addition, some liver and kidney disorders can turn urine dark brown (as can some urinary tract infections).

Clear Pee with No Yellow (or other) Color:
When our pee is completely clear, it may be a sign that we are drinking too much water.

In general, when we are drinking so much that our urine looks like water, we are probably drinking more than we need.

White, Cloudy or Murky Urine (Albinuria):
Urinary tract infections (UTI) and/or kidney stones can cause our urine to appear cloudy or murky.

Chyluria is another possible diagnosis. Chyluria (also called chylous urine) is a medical condition involving the presence of chyle in the urine stream, which results in urine appearing milky white. It is a condition that is more prevalent among people of Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

Green Colored Urine:
Some bright-colored food dyes can cause our urine to appear green.

In addition, some medications produce blue or green urine, including amitriptyline, indomethacin (Indocin) and propofol (Diprivan).

Green urine sometimes occurs during urinary tract infections caused by Pseudomonas bacteria.

Orange Colored Pee:
In some cases, orange urine can show a problem with our liver or bile duct – especially if we also have light-colored stools.

Medications that can turn urine orange include rifampin; the anti-inflammatory drug sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)… phenazopyridine (Pyridium), a drug that numbs urinary tract discomfort… some laxatives – certain chemotherapy drugs.

Orange urine may also be caused by dehydration.

Purple Urine:
The only known cause of purple urine is a purple urine bag syndrome.

Purple urine is associated with Gram-negative bacteruria and typically resolves after treatment with antibiotics and changing the catheter.

Reddish Orange Colored Pee:
Medications Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane) and Phenazopyridine (Pyridium) can turn urine a reddish orange color.
Red or Pink Urine Color:
Some foods such as beets (beetroot), blackberries and rhubarb are known to turn our urine a red or pink color.

Medications such as Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), phenazopyridine (Pyridium), and laxatives containing senna can also turn urine reddish orange color.

However, we could have blood in our urine. Factors that can cause urinary blood (hematuria) include urinary tract infections, enlarged prostate, kidney cysts, long-distance running, and kidney or bladder stones.

Note: It only takes a single drop of blood to turn the toilet bowl water red.

Should urine smell?

When we are healthy, our pee should not smell.

The smell of our urine is usually more of an indicator of foods we have recently eaten (or medications we may be taking).

Certain foods and drinks like saffron, alcohol, coffee, tuna fish, and onion can result in various urine “scents”. Spicy foods can often have a similar effect, as their compounds pass through the kidneys without being fully broken down before exiting your body.

Foul-smelling urine might be due to a bacterial infection.

A musty urine smell could be a hint of liver disease.

Sweet-smelling urine may be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes or a rare disease of metabolism. Diabetics often report that their urine smells sweet, this is because of excess sugar in the body.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause your urine to have a very strong smell.

Many people report asparagus puts off a weird urine smell.

What about foamy urine?

Sometimes our urine looks foamier than usual. Most times we get foamy urine when we pee more forcefully than normal. Or, foamy urine might be an indicator of a health-related symptom… a sign of protein in the urine (which can be a sign of a kidney problem).