What Color Should Your Pee Be? Here's What Doctors Say

Before you flush, take a look—one glance can tell you a *lot* about your health.

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Reviewed by Dietitian Emily Lachtrupp, M.S., RD

It’s not exactly considered polite dinner table conversation, but it’s about time we all got more comfortable with pee and poop. How often, how much and the composition of both can tell you a lot about your overall health, as we mentioned in our guide to how often you should poop, according to doctors.

The same holds true for your urine. Rather than flushing immediately and rushing on to the rest of your day, it’s wise to take a peek at the contents of the toilet.

Related: How Often Should You Pee & When Is It Too Much? Here's What Doctors Say

“Monitoring the color of urine can provide valuable insight into hydration levels and potential health issues,” says Jason Kim, M.D., a member of the American Urological Association and an associate professor of urology and director of the Women’s Pelvic Health and Continence Center at Stony Brook University Medical Center in Stony Brook, New York.

Ahead, we’ll spill about what your pee should—and shouldn’t—look like as a healthy human. Plus, we’ll explain the lifestyle habits you can start today to get to or keep the “right” pee color, and will reveal when your pee color could be a red flag—and a sign to visit your doctor.

What Color Should Your Pee Be?

Your pee should look like slightly diluted lemonade or lighter.

The color of “healthy” or “normal” urine can vary based on factors including hydration, diet and certain medications, Kim says. As a general rule, however, clear to pale yellow urine is ideal, says Amberly Davidson, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN at HerMD in Cincinnati.

Kim agrees on the lighter-hued urine: “This color indicates a healthy balance of hydration and waste products in the body.”

Related: 8 Sneaky Signs You're Dehydrated, According to a Dietitian

What Factors Can Affect Pee Color?

In case you’re curious, the color of pee is primarily affected by the presence of a pigment called urochrome (aka urobilin) which is a byproduct of the breakdown of hemoglobin from old red blood cells, according to the American Chemical Society.

The most common reason why our urine changes color is due to hydration levels. “When you're adequately hydrated, your urine tends to be a lighter, pale yellow color because it's more diluted. When you're dehydrated, urine can become darker in color, indicating that it's more concentrated with waste products,” Kim explains. Dehydration can cause urine to become yellow to amber in color, he says.

So, how much water is enough? Ideally, men should shoot for 3.7 liters of water per day (125 ounces) and women should aim for 2.7 liters per day (91 ounces) via a combination of fluid and hydrating foods, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Besides your water intake, several other details can impact the color of your pee, including:

  • Foods. Eating beets can cause urine to turn reddish or pinkish due to a pigment called betalain. Asparagus can give urine a strong odor and, in some individuals, may cause pee to appear greenish, Kim explains.

  • Supplements. Some multivitamins contain high doses of B vitamins, particularly riboflavin (vitamin B2), which can turn urine bright yellow, Kim says. So it stands to reason that vitamin B supplements can do the same. In addition, “Herbal supplements like cascara or senna, often used for digestive health, can lead to brown or red-colored urine,” Kim says.

  • Medical conditions. Urinary tract infections can cause urine to appear cloudy, dark or even bloody due to the presence of bacteria, white blood cells or red blood cells in the mix. Liver or kidney problems can also trigger changes in urine color, Kim adds. (For instance, liver disorders may cause urine to appear dark or brown due to the presence of bilirubin, while kidney disorders can lead to the presence of blood or protein in the urine.)

  • Medications. If you’ve recently taken a new medication or gone in for a medical procedure and have noticed a change in urine color, it may be the medication. Just a few examples: Taking antibiotics like nitrofurantoin (used to treat UTIs) can turn pee dark yellow or brown, according to Kim. Propofol (a drug used during anesthesia) can cause the urine to turn different colors, such as white or pink, Davidson adds. You may also see green urine if you take amitriptyline (a type of antidepressant), she says.

How to Get the “Right” Color of Pee

If you’re noticing that your pee is darker than the ideal pale yellow, Kim suggests implementing these lifestyle adjustments:

  • Drink plenty of water. “Staying hydrated is key to ensuring that your urine remains a healthy color,” Kim recommends.

  • Limit alcohol and moderate caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine can both act as diuretics, leading to more frequent urination. The fluid losses after drinking alcohol can lead to mild dehydration (and hangovers), according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Coffee is less likely to cause dehydration because the fluid from drinking coffee itself tends to offset any increase in urination. Still, it’s important to consume java in moderation.

  • Avoid certain foods and drinks. Or at least keep the expected scent and/or color changes from beets, asparagus and artificial food colorings top of mind and watch your pee to ensure it returns back to normal within about 48 hours.

  • Monitor medications. As we mentioned, certain medications can affect the color of urine. If you're taking any over-the-counter or prescription meds and notice changes in the color of your pee, consult your health care provider to determine if adjustments to your medication regimen are necessary, Kim advises.

  • Practice good hygiene. “Maintaining good hygiene, including regular bathing and genital care, can help prevent urinary tract infections and other conditions that may affect the color and odor of urine,” Kim says.

Above all, make it a habit to check out the color of your urine regularly. If you notice that your pee is consistently dark in color despite your best efforts to stay hydrated, it may indicate dehydration or an underlying health issue that requires medical attention.

The Colors Your Pee Shouldn’t Be

It’s important to keep an eye on your pee. “Abnormal urine color can be a sign of a health problem,” Davidson says. Here’s what to look for, and what it may indicate:

  • Dark yellow or amber pee: Dehydration.

  • Red or pink pee: Blood in the urine, known as hematuria, per Penn Medicine, can be caused by various factors such as a UTI, kidney stones, bladder or kidney infections, Kim says. Red can also indicate more serious conditions like kidney disease or cancer, he adds.

  • Brown or dark-colored pee: Liver disorders, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, or conditions affecting the kidneys. “This can also result from certain medications, intense exercise or eating certain foods,” Kim adds.

  • Black pee: Very dark urine, verging on black, could be a signal of an infection, kidney stones, kidney injury, muscle injury or, in rare cases, metastatic melanoma, Davidson says.

  • Cloudy or murky pee: This is often related to the presence of bacteria, white blood cells or other substances in the urine, suggesting a possible UTI or kidney stones. It can also result from certain medical conditions or dietary factors.

  • Foamy pee: “While some foaming or frothing of urine is normal, persistent foamy urine can sometimes indicate the presence of protein in the urine, known as proteinuria. Proteinuria can be a sign of kidney disease or other underlying health conditions,” Kim says.

Related: 7 Conditions That Might Increase Your Risk of Dehydration, According to Health Experts

When to See a Doctor About Your Pee Color

If your pee consistently deviates from the usual pale yellow color without a clear cause, consult with your primary care doctor to rule out any underlying health concerns, Kim says, and to see if you might need a referral to a urologist. This is especially important if you have a personal or family history of kidney disease, liver disorders or UTIs.

If any color changes come in tandem with one of the following symptoms, speak to your MD ASAP:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Difficulty urinating

  • Dizziness

  • Extreme thirst

  • Very infrequent urination

  • Odor, debris or particles

  • Pain or burning while peeing

  • Fever or chills

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Urgency

  • Blockage of urine

  • Inability to empty the bladder

  • Problems controlling the bladder

Ultimately, if you're unsure whether changes in urine color warrant medical attention, it's better to err on the side of caution and consult a health care professional, Kim says. “Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms, perform necessary tests if needed and provide appropriate guidance and treatment based on your individual circumstances. Early detection and treatment of underlying health conditions can help prevent complications and promote overall well-being,” he explains.

The Bottom Line

“Normal” pee should be clear to pale yellow in color; think slightly diluted lemonade or lighter. Certain medications and medical conditions, a few foods and some supplements can affect the color of your pee. If it’s dark yellow or amber and this change in hue doesn’t come along with any other symptoms, you’re probably just dehydrated. Try drinking more water, and monitor your urine over the next few days.

If your pee is red, pink, brown, black, cloudy, murky or foamy, and especially if these colors remain for more than a day and come paired with other physical symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible to check for an underlying cause, such as infection.

Read the original article on Eating Well.