What your urine says about your health


Your urine can tell you more about your health than just how hydrated you are. Changes in color, smell, appearance, and even frequency can be the result of simple external factors or potentially more serious medical conditions.

Different urine colors and causes

While most people expect to see a familiar yellow hue when they look in the toilet bowl, your urine could change color for a variety of reasons that range from harmless external factors to more serious internal conditions. Some of the colors you may see are:

Transparent: Your urine looks like water, there’s no color to it at all. Not to worry, this is most likely because you’ve been drinking a lot of water recently and are very hydrated. You may want to cut back on your water intake to return your urine to a yellow color, though transparent pee is harmless.

Pale straw: If your urine is the color of pale straw, it means that you are healthy and well-hydrated. This is completely normal and no cause for alarm.

Transparent yellow: Again, you are completely normal, albeit slightly less hydrated than those whose urine is the color of pale straw.

Dark yellow: Everything is fine, but you may want to up your water intake. Darker pee is more concentrated, meaning you’re probably on the verge of dehydration.

Amber or honey: You’ve most likely reached the point of dehydration as your urine is very concentrated. Increase your daily water consumption to lighten your pee and become more hydrated.

Syrup or brown ale: Definitely a more disconcerting color to see, and while it could be due to severe dehydration, this color may also indicate liver disease. Try drinking more water, and if the color doesn’t lighten, seek the advice of your doctor.

Pink or reddish: This can be a scary thing to see, but it may not be as serious as you think. Foods like blueberries, beets, and rhubarb can turn your urine a pink or reddish color, so if you’ve recently eaten one of these foods, it is most likely the culprit. If you haven’t, then the color could be due to blood in the urine and you should seek the advice of your doctor—it may be a symptom of a more serious condition like kidney disease, tumors, a UTI, or issues with the prostate.

Orange: Orange urine can be the result of food dyes working through your system or a lack of water. However, if the hue sticks around even after increasing your water intake, check with your doctor as it may be caused by issues with your liver or bile duct.

Other factors and what they mean

In addition to color, the appearance and smell of your urine, as well as the frequency with which you urinate, may change and indicate potential medical conditions. Some common changes are:

Cloudy urine: Cloudy urine is often a symptom of a urinary tract infection and can be accompanied by an odor and a burning sensation when you urinate. A visit to your doctor and a urine test will have the problem diagnosed and treated by antibiotics.

Foamy urine: While foamy urine may be a result of urinating with more force than normal, it can also be due to the presence of protein in the urine, which is a symptom of issues with your kidneys. If you think the foaminess isn’t due to force, contact your doctor to have some tests run and gain a proper diagnosis.

Smelly urine: Urine with an unpleasant odor doesn’t usually relate to a medical condition, rather to the food you’ve eaten or medications you are taking. Asparagus is a prime example of how urine odor can be changed by food.

Frequent urination: Women over the age of 35 who experience frequent urination may have benign uterine tumors known as fibroids, while men with this issue may be experiencing problems with their prostate. Frequent urination has also been linked to diabetes, UTIs, and stroke recovery. Those who have suffered a stroke may have less control over their bladders due to weakened muscles and nerve damage, which can cause incontinence and frequent urination.

While the color, appearance, smell, and frequency of your urine can tell you many things about the state of your health, if there are any changes that you find concerning, it is always best to contact your doctor in order to determine the cause of your symptoms. You can consider using natural diuretic drinks to flush out those excess sodium and helps with water retention in your body.

Dr. Victor Marchione
Dr. Victor Marchione received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and continued on to do his Medical Degree at the University of Messina. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for more than 20 years.

He is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and the NBC Today Show. As well as being on the Advisory Board for Bel Marra Health, he is also the editor of the Health eTalk newsletter.