What Your Pee Says About Your Health

Most people pee around six to eight times a day (depending on the size of your tank, of course), but rarely does anybody look down at the toilet afterward and wonder, "What does it all mean?!"

It's something everyone should do, though, considering pee is full of indicators when it comes to overall health. Here are some red flags to pay attention to when you're taking a leak.

doctor holding urine sample

Dark yellow

Pee doesn't exactly have a spectrum of acceptable colors the same way poop does, says Dr. Scott Schreiber, a chiropractic physician and nutrition specialist. If you're healthy, you should be tinkling a clear-to-light yellow color. But if not, there are other hues that could be signaling otherwise.

The most common (read: least alarming) is pee that's honey or amber in color. "[It means] you are very dehydrated and need to drink water immediately," says Schreiber. "The more dark the urine, the more dehydrated you are."


According to Dr. Gina Sam, director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Center at Mount Sinai Hospital, orange pee can also be a symptom of severe dehydration. But it can be caused by a bile-duct condition or orange food dye too. 

So how do you tell the difference between desperately needing water, and the freezies you ate an hour ago? "[The effects of food dye] should only last for no more than 24 hours," she explains.


Just a step away on the color chart from honey-colored pee is brown pee, which could be your body's way of showing kidney malfunction.

"Brown urine can be caused by blood in the urine," says Dr. Schreiber. "It can be a kidney infection, stones, or injury to the kidney, like trauma from a direct hit."

Otherwise, brown urine can be caused by eating too much protein, or, again, from food coloring -- according to Dr. Schreiber, a simple pee dipstick at the doc's office can tell a lot about what's going on.

blue liquid in a container

Blue or green

This color can be the result of a bacterial infection or a rare genetic disorder, but both are pretty uncommon. That's why if your wizz is blue, it's probably from food dye or medication, which often turn your urine green because blue dyes tend to react with the natural yellow in your pee.

Red or pink

For women, seeing a little red in your pee is a standard monthly event. But if you're seeing it at other times too, it can be the body's way of alluding to something more serious, like an infection or kidney disease. For guys, it can also be a symptom of a prostate condition.

Or it could also just be that you've eaten a lot of beets, blueberries, or rhubarb. According to Dr. Sam, there will likely be other indicators that tell you it's not coming from the pie you ate earlier.

"If it's burning or you're having a pink-reddish color, something is going on in the kidney," she says. "If you have no symptoms or burning at all, but you also haven't eaten those things, you may still want to see your doctor."

A sweet smell

If your pee starts to smell sugary, don't get too excited about this new, unusual sensation -- it could be a symptom of diabetes. Dr. Sam says it's a sign of too much glucose in the blood. If you also find yourself heading to the bathroom a little too frequently, it's definitely time to seek medical attention.

It really hurts

If it hurts when you pee, it probably means you have a urinary tract infection. Home remedies like cranberry juice and drinking water can help with relief, but ultimately you'll need antibiotics.

Heading to the doctor probably isn't a bad idea anyway. Dr. Sam warns that stinging could also be your body's way of saying, "Hey there. You've got an STD."

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Barbara Woolsey is a Berlin-based writer who now feels better about hating beets and rhubarb. Read more of her stuff on Facebook and Twitter.