Medically Reviewed by Dr. Bryan Seigel D.C., P.L.C.
How much do you think about your pee? Do you look at it before you flush? Do you notice any smells or a lot of bubbles?
Continue on, dear reader, and you’ll learn so much more about your pee than you ever wanted to.
What’s in your pee?
What color should urine be? Ideally, your pee is mostly water, so it should have a light yellowish color. Wastes are filtered by your kidneys and dissolved into a few different compounds your body produces, primarily the yellow-colored urobilin. Urine also contains excess salts and minerals, as well as byproducts from the normal detoxification processes of things that make their way into your bloodstream.
Your kidneys are a smart filter
Most people don’t spend too much time thinking about their kidneys, the organs that create the urine that gets stored in the bladder. Almost all of us are born with two of them, and they filter every drop of your blood about 40 times every day. They pull out wastes and enough water to dissolve them, and maintain fluid balance in our bodies. If you eat a very salty meal, you will retain more water because your kidneys are smart enough to keep that water in circulation to dilute the salt. Lots of people are told to eat more salt on keto and this is because of the opposite effect: having too little salt and other electrolytes means you’ll lose more water and get dehydrated, leading to keto flu, headaches and all.
Ever drink a metric crap ton of coffee and find that your urine smells just like your morning cup of java? That’s because you’re drinking too much coffee at once! (No, don’t leave, hang on!) Your kidneys are pulling out unused molecules of caffeine, because there’s nowhere else in your body for them to go: you’re literally saturated! Because you’re going to the bathroom more often, your urine color will be pretty light, and that’s not the best either. So, slow down on the coffee intake and have a little water.
What color should urine be?
Some foods and food additives will change the color of your pee because the molecules containing these colors are small enough that they get through the kidney’s filter cells, or nephrons. You can turn your urine red or pink by eating beets, blackberries, or rhubarb. If you haven’t eaten these things and your urine is red, go talk to your doctor because that could be blood. There’s basically no situation where blood in your urine is OK.
Many B-vitamin supplements, along with some medications, will turn urine a bright orange color. Other medications can turn urine blue or green, as can certain food colorings. Brown urine can be caused by severe muscle damage and a number of diseases, so this is another case where a chat with your doctor is in order.
If your urine color is dark yellow or brown, it can be caused by foods or medications, but it’s more likely caused by not drinking enough water. Darker yellow urine usually indicates that there are too many solutes, or particles, contained in it, and not enough water to safely dilute them.
Very light yellow or even completely clear urine are a sign that you’re drinking too much water. Yes, that’s really a thing! Overhydration means that not only are there very few solutes in your urine, but that you have too high a ratio of water to electrolytes and minerals in your blood. Electrolytes and minerals are necessary for energy production, nerve conductivity, muscle function, and cellular health. There are documented cases of people drinking too much water and having severe or deadly consequences from hyponatremia, which is too little salt in the blood.
It’s all about balance. Sometimes your urine will be a color that you don’t expect, and the vast majority of the time it’s due to your water intake. If your urine is dark, add a few glasses of water a day. If it’s nearly colorless, cut back a little.