Have you recently gone to flush the toilet and caught a glimpse that your pee isn’t the typical light yellow you’re used to seeing? If you're wondering, Why is my pee green? you may be worried and panicking a little after seeing the unusual shade.
Thankfully, if your pee isn’t always a typical pale yellow, it isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, according to Rachel High, DO, a urogynecologist at the Center for Restorative Pelvic Medicine at Houston Methodist. In fact, urine can be clear (water-like), yellow, orange, or amber. Normal and healthy pee can be completely transparent or cloudy too, she says.
Even knowing that the range of normal urine color can vary so widely, you may be curious about what's behind these changes. The number one culprit: the amount of water you're drinking. “The level of hydration is the most common cause of changes in color, as urine is where the body excretes metabolites and biochemical waste,” Dr. High explains. “Urine is mostly water, but also includes urea, chloride, sodium, potassium, creatinine and other ions. And when we are dehydrated, there is less water to dilute these things.”
The yellow color increases in intensity when the concentration of urobilin, a chemical that is a normal component of urine, is higher, according to Dr. High. Beets, rhubarb, and foods with dye can lead to a pink or red shade, which is not concerning, she says. Green urine, meanwhile, is rarely, if ever, a cause for concern either.
“Urine colors which may be a sign of an abnormality would be brown or red, though some causes of urine being temporarily red, pink, or brown are not concerning,” Dr. High says. “It is important to consider the duration of the color change, whether this is from the vagina or rectum (rather than the bladder), and new dietary supplements or medications.”
Read on for three potential causes of green urine and when you should get yourself checked out.
Meet the expert: Rachel High, DO, is a urogynecologist at the Center for Restorative Pelvic Medicine at Houston Methodist.
So, what can cause green pee?
While green pee, once again, isn't something to be alarmed over, you'll likely be comforted by knowing that you can tie it to certain behaviors if you do experience it. Here are three possible causes of green urine.
1. You're taking a vitamin B supplement.
B vitamins can cause urine to turn neon yellow or greenish in color, such as riboflavin (B2), according to Mayo Clinic. This is just a sign that your body is absorbing the vitamins correctly. If your pee is suddenly noticeably more yellow-green, it's probably because you're taking more than your body needs, and your body is responding by excreting the excess in your urine.
2. You're taking medications that contain green dyes.
Manufacturers often put coloring in pills, which can then cause your urine to turn green after you take them. Examples include the following, according to Mayo Clinic.
Amitriptyline, which is prescribed for depression
Cimetidine (Tagamet HB), which is used to treat ulcers and acid reflux
Triamterene (Dyrenium), a water pill that relieves swelling caused by conditions like cancer and liver disease
Indomethacin (Indocin, Tivorbex), which targets pain and arthritis symptoms
Propofol (Diprivan), which helps people sleep or relax before surgery
3. You're eating certain foods or drinks.
Certain foods or drinks, particularly those with larger amounts of artificial coloring and dyes, can sometimes cause green urine, according to Dr. High. Examples include candy, colorful cereals, sodas, and energy bars.
Should I be worried if my pee is green?
Since green urine is typically brought on by something you consume, it's generally not something to be concerned about, according to Dr. High. However, certain severe symptoms should prompt someone to seek medical help if they’re also experiencing unusual changes in urine color.
“Brown or bright red can be a health concern in certain situations—sometimes these colors are due to menstrual fluid or vaginal discharge,” she explains. “Some people have blood in their urine, called hematuria, when they have an active urinary tract infection and this can be a normal variant.”
Additionally, if someone has red or brown urine without being on their period or consuming foods with pigment (i.e., beets, tomatoes, and leafy greens, among others), they should consult with a healthcare professional ASAP. “Red or brown urine can indicate issues with the kidneys, liver, or bladder, which may need treatment or monitoring,” Dr. High notes.
Patients are often alarmed when they experience cloudy urine, which usually isn’t a cause for concern, says Dr. High.
“Cloudy urine in patients with vaginas is rarely indicative of a problem—normal vaginal discharge varies greatly within an individual, and it is very difficult to separate vaginal discharge from urine unless the urine is a catheterized sample,” she explains. “True signs of a urine infection include new-onset bladder pain, burning with urination, and worsening urinary urgency.”
The bottom line: Changes in urine color alone typically aren’t a cause for concern. But if you’re experiencing any other concerning symptoms like bladder pain or burning when you use the bathroom, check in with your doctor, STAT.
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