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What Your Pee Says about Your Health

Donald Jones

Your next bathroom break may expose more than you realize. Before you flush valuable health information down the drain, get better acquainted with your urine -- a byproduct of the kidneys' complex filtration system. These are the top 5 ways urine can reveal important information about your kidneys as well as your overall health, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

  1. Whether you're hydrated. If your urine is dark yellow, you could be dehydrated. Each day the kidneys filter 200 liters of blood, removing toxins, waste products and excess fluid. This process creates approximately 1-2 quarts of urine. Hydration status affects the concentration of wastes in the urine. Aim for clear urine. When dehydrated, urine is likely to be more yellow, "or darker," and the body isn't going to produce as much of it. Dehydration can also cause kidney stones, because it allows for stone-causing minerals to concentrate and settle in the kidneys and urinary tract. One of the best measures you can take to avoid kidney stones is to drink plenty of water, requiring you to urinate a lot.
  2. If you have an early marker of kidney damage. Protein in the urine is one of the earliest signs of kidney damage, especially in people with diabetes. At your annual physical, be sure to ask your health care provider for a urinalysis, especially if you're at increased risk for kidney disease due to diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure.
  3. If you have diabetes. If your urine has a "sweet" smell, it may indicate the presence of sugar. When there is too much sugar in the bloodstream and the body isn't processing it effectively, the kidneys work overtime to try and remove it from the body. Sugar in the urine can indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes, so it's important to get additional blood testing for diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease and even pre-diabetes can damage the kidneys making it important to receive a diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Presence of a urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI occurs when bacteria (germs) get in the urinary tract and multiply. The urinary tract is made up of the bladder, urethra, ureters and kidneys. Bacteria usually enter the urinary tract through the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. If a UTI is not treated promptly, bacteria can move up to the kidneys and cause a more serious type of infection. Symptoms of UTIs include an urgent need to urinate (often with only a few drops of urine to pass), a burning feeling when urinating, cloudy or blood-tinged urine and a strong odor to the urine.
  5. If you have blood in your urine. Does your urine have a pink hue? If you recently ate beets or foods with beet-based dyes, your diet could be the culprit. A funny smell? Diet may also be to blame. Certain foods, such as asparagus, can impact the appearance and scent of your urine. The same holds true for medications and supplements, so pay attention to whether urinary changes coincide with any dietary changes. The presence of red blood cells can also make your urine appear more pink or red, so it's important to recognize your body's normal reactions to different foods and medications. Urine can offer clues into your health, but it's critical to know when to follow up with your healthcare provider so that in the event of a more serious condition, such as blood in the urine, you obtain the necessary testing and diagnosis.