"Peeing in a cup" is often one of the first tests your healthcare provider gives you, and it has long been a helpful diagnostic tool. Sometimes just looking in the toilet can tell you a lot! People use the Bristol poop scale to diagnose issues with digestion, among other things, but you can also analyze your urine color to gain insight into your health — especially your level of hydration.
Urine carries metabolic waste out of your system. It typically contains nitrogenous (nitrogen-based) compounds and gets filtered through the kidneys. Before leaving the body through the urethra, your bladder temporarily stores urine. So what turns yellow pee into all shades of the rainbow? Are you curious about what your urine color says about your health?
What Does Your Urine Color Mean?
Pro tip: Do a self-diagnosis of your urine to make sure you're drinking enough water!
Water makes up most of your total body weight and is a component of blood, body tissues, and, of course, urine. Seeing the color of your urine can offer a quick self-diagnosis — mainly about how hydrated you are — but sometimes it also provides insight into your health. Below are the main colors of urine when in a "normal" or healthy state plus some colors that may indicate a health concern.
Normal urine ranges from transparent to a light amber color. The yellowish hue comes from "urochrome" (also called urobilin) — a yellow pigment found in your body. Your urine should have a mild smell, but not a strong odor, unless you're seriously dehydrated or have a medical condition. In some cases, even healthy urine may appear abnormal due to medication or diet. Read on to learn more.
Good job! You've been drinking lots of water. Usually, transparent urine goes hand in hand with a high frequency of peeing: you're drinking water faster than your kidneys are producing waste to send with it.
If your pee is transparent and you drink a lot of water, add electrolytes to your drinks!
If you are constantly peeing clear, consider adding electrolytes to your diet to be sure you aren't washing nutrients from your system. Natural electrolyte boosters include coconut water, coconut aminos, magnesium, and Himalayan pink salt — though be careful not to consume too much salt, which can dehydrate you. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces daily to stay hydrated.
Pale Straw Color
A pale straw or light honey color is common to see in urine. This means you are drinking a healthy amount of water and there are no telltale signs of infections or concerns. If you are worried about being dehydrated, you can know that you've had enough water when your pee reaches this pale yellow color.
Dark Yellow or Amber
Warning! This is the first sign that you're dehydrated.
A dark yellow or amber color typically means that you're dehydrated. When the body is short on water, metabolic waste products get more and more concentrated in your bladder, leading to more urochrome pigment and less water. Mild dehydration can be treated quickly by drinking a few glasses of water. Dehydration may also come with a headache.
You can tell a lot about your hydration state from the ranges of yellow in your urine, but some colors can come as a total shock.
Medication or food dyes — natural and artificial — carried through your digestive system can cause you to see abnormal colors in your toilet bowl. However, sometimes unusual urine colors are caused by more significant health triggers, so keep a watchful eye if it continues beyond a short period of time or accompanies any other worrying signs.
Dark brown urine is most likely a sign of extreme dehydration. Severe dehydration requires urgent action. Please drink water immediately! Adding electrolyte supplements to your water can help your body regain mineral salts, as well.
Pro tip: To avoid extreme dehydration, aim to drink half your body weight in water per day.
Liver or kidney conditions, such as jaundice, are the most common medical cause of dark brown urine; these can cause bile (bilirubin) to build up in the urine.
Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) also cause brown urine, particularly chlamydia, as can some urinary tract infections — though more often it will be pink or red. If drinking water does not lighten your urine, visit your healthcare provider to get a more in-depth analysis.
Did you know that carrots may tint your urine?
Carrots are great for your health, but if you eat a lot, the dark orange-colored beta-carotene they contain can tint your urine orange-red or brownish. Eating a lot of foods rich in B vitamins, such as legumes or grains, or taking excessive B vitamins may also have this effect. On the other hand, orange urine can be a sign of dehydration — drink up if you're not sure!
Orange-red urine is a common side effect of a few medications, and if you take them, the color alone should not cause alarm: phenazopyridine (for UTIs and other urinary conditions), rifampin (an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis), or warfarin (a blood clot medicine). More seriously, a liver or a bile duct concern that causes bilirubin to build up in the urine could result in orange urine.
Wait! Did you know that beeturia is when beets cause red-colored urine?
Seeing a pink or red tint in the toilet feels alarming. However, it is often a result of eating foods such as beets, blackberries, or anything with red food coloring, like cake frosting.[3, 6] Beetroot causing red-colored urine is so common that it has a name — beeturia!
Other causes may include a woman's menses, medications, or red blood cells from health conditions. Medicines that give a pink or red tone to urine include some laxatives, ibuprofen, and rifampin, an antibiotic.[3, 6]
Seeing pink in your urine is usually only of medical concern when you have blood in your urine that is not associated with a menstrual cycle. Urinary tract infections are the most common cause of pink or reddish urine. During a UTI, red blood cells may get into the urethra and exit the body in urine.
Kidney stones may also result in reddish urine, or sometimes a more serious kidney or prostate condition.[3, 7] If you feel any pain, itching, or burning while peeing, have other symptoms, or have not eaten any of the listed foods, we recommend you visit a healthcare provider.
Blue or Green
A blue or green color is probably the last thing you expect to see in your toilet bowl! Back in ancient times, the philosopher Avicenna viewed blue urine as a sign of a "severe cold nature." But, today, we understand its medical causes.
Typically, green urine results from medication, food coloring, or pigments produced by Pseudomonas bacteria.
Medicines including propofol (often used before surgeries), promethazine (an antihistamine for allergies and motion sickness), cimetidine (antacid), or thymol (a natural component of thyme) may color the urine green or blue. Food coloring can also cause blue or green urine.
Foamy urine is just like it sounds — white foam shows up in the toilet bowl. In an analysis of over 100 patients who had foamy urine, 22 percent had proteinuria. Proteinuria is when the kidneys allow proteins to pass out of the body as waste instead of becoming building blocks for your cells. Healthy kidneys filter out most proteins and cycle them back into the bloodstream. Proteinuria, or high concentrations of protein in the urine, is an early warning of kidney disease.
A common assumption is that foamy urine is usually caused by proteinuria.
However, since only 22 percent had confirmed proteinuria, other conditions may be even more common. These include simply having an overfull bladder that makes foamy bubbles when peeing quickly, or the result of sediment waste molecules in the urine such as creatinine, phosphate, or albumin.
How to Maintain Kidney Health
The kidneys are crucial regulators of water balance, blood pressure, and heart health. Kidneys filter toxins and chemicals from your bloodstream before sending it back to the heart. Having a concern with your kidney "filter" could impact how you absorb nutrients. Here are a few common ways to keep your kidneys healthy.
Drink Enough Water
The first step to a healthy kidney system — and transparent yellow urine — is simply drinking enough water. But how much water is enough?
You may have heard of the 'eight glasses per day' rule of thumb. But it's a bit more complex than that. I recommend you drink half your weight in ounces every day.
Feedback from your own urine can come in handy here! If your urine is transparent or light yellow, then you can assume you're drinking enough water. Otherwise, you might need more. We lose excess water during exercise through sweat, so make sure to stock up on it before, during, and after.
Eat Healthy Foods
You can keep your kidneys happy by eating foods that support healthy kidney function. Cranberries help fight off UTIs and kidney beans can mitigate kidney stones — just make sure you cook them well to remove lectins.
Did you know that people consume 20% of their water intake through food?
Not all of the water you consume comes in a cup. There are many hydrating foods, including watermelon, cabbage, celery, carrots, broccoli, and bananas — to name a few. People usually consume about 20 percent of their daily water intake through food.
Stop Smoking & Consuming Alcohol
The more toxins we put in our bodies, the harder it has to work to detoxify. Like putting miles on your car, your body slowly carries the weight of your life's wear and tear. Stopping smoking and consuming alcohol will promote kidney and liver health. Make choices that help your body continue to regulate toxins for the long haul. You can check out our guide on how to quit smoking for more ideas.
Try a Kidney Cleanse
A kidney cleanse can be useful for soothing and toning the urinary tract. There are several kidney cleansing drinks, teas, herbs, and foods that can restart your system with a clean slate. This can support your kidneys' ability to detoxify your blood and send waste healthfully out of your body.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
If you see an abnormal urine color come out of your body, pay attention. If it's dark brown or orange, start drinking water right away.
While it could be dehydration, it could be something more serious. When abnormally colored urine is accompanied by pain, itching, burning, or other symptoms, when it persists beyond a few hours or a 24-hour period after eating something unusual or taking a medication, then see a healthcare provider right away.
Points to Remember
Knowing what to look for in your urine can empower you with information about your body. While medications and food dyes can impact urine color, darker-colored urine is most likely an indication of hydration status.
There are many colors of urine that are caused by food or medications; beets coloring your urine is so common it has a name, beeturia! However, sometimes a change in urine color may indicate a health condition.
Pinkish-red may indicate a urinary tract infection or blood in the urine. Dark brown, orange, or reddish colors may indicate a kidney or liver condition. If discolored urine continues or you have additional symptoms, it's wise to see a healthcare provider.
No matter the color, always stay hydrated. Aim for urine that is pale yellow or clear, and drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily. You can even try kidney cleansing to support your kidney function.
Have you ever looked in the toilet and found a surprise: green, blue, red, orange, or another color urine? What was the cause? Leave a comment below with your thoughts or questions!
- Shamsi M, et al. A brief review of Rhazes, Avicenna, and Jorjani's views on diagnosis of diseases through urine examination. Iran J Kidney Dis. 2014;8(4):278.
- Perrier ET, et al. Criterion values for urine-specific gravity and urine color representing adequate water intake in healthy adults. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017;71(4):561.
- Urine Color. Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Accessed March 26, 2019.
- Common Characteristics of Liver Disease. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed 29 Mar 2019.
- Dark Urine. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs/STD) Guide. FREEDOM Network. Updated 13 May 2017. Accessed 29 Mar 2019.
- Singh AK, et al. Differentials of abnormal urine color: a review. Annals of Applied Bio-sciences. 2014;1:R21-R25.
- Berman LB. When the urine is red. JAMA. 1977;237(25):2753-2754.
- Prakash S, et al. Green urine: A cause for concern? J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol. 2017 Jan;33(1):128.
- Kang KK, et al. Clinical significance of subjective foamy urine. Chonnam Med J. 2012;48(3):164-168.
- Your Kidneys & How They Work. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders, National Institutes of Health. June 2018. Accessed 29 Mar 2019.
- Guelinckx I, et al. Contribution of water from food and fluids to total water intake: analysis of a French and UK population surveys. Nutrients. 2016 Oct; 8(10):630.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.