Your urine is a powerful indicator of your health – here’s what to look for

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The colour of your urine offers clues about what might be happening in your body. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/ Getty Images)
The colour of your urine offers clues about what might be happening in your body. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/ Getty Images)

Your urine can tell you an awful lot about the state of your health – and you don’t need a degree in medicine to decipher it. Here are a couple of problematic things to watch out for.

Peeing more often

Going more often is not just irritating – it can be a sign of diabetes. More than 4,5 million South Africans have diabetes, and, according to the Diabetes South Africa, many more have it but have not been diagnosed. Considering it’s a leading cause of death in SA, frequent trips to the bathroom shouldn’t be ignored.

Urine
Going more often is not just irritating – it can be a sign of diabetes. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/ Getty Images)

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include excessive thirst and urination, weakness, fatigue and blurred vision. If you’re experien­cing these you should visit your doctor for a blood test. If you’re experiencing frequent urination but not the other symptoms, think about whether you’re consuming more liquids than usual, or possibly even eating extra fruit and vegetables that have a diuretic effect. Celery, cranberries, cabbage and grapes could all be behind extra toilet breaks.

Going often but producing little

Find that you’re often dashing to the loo but nothing much comes out? This can be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI), says Dr Tim Mathew, a medical director at Kidney Health Australia. Other signs are blood in the urine and a fishy smell.

“If the infection is in the kidneys, then pain in the loins, fever and weakness occur,” he says. If you experience these symptoms you should seek medical help immediately.

UTIs are common, with 50-60% of women globally suffering a UTI in their lifetime. To reduce the risk, wear cotton underwear and avoid using feminine hygiene products too often, as these reduce protective bacteria in that area. If you get a UTI, drink plenty of water, avoid coffee and alcohol, and see your doctor.

Strange smells

Although it can be alarming, odd urine odours are often nothing to be concerned about. The most common culprit is asparagus. The distinctive odour is due to asparagusic acid, found only in this vegetable.

When you eat asparagus the acid is broken down into sulphur-containing compounds which result in smelly urine. For some people, garlic has a similar effect.

You should consult your doctor if the smell is persistent, or if your urine smells sweet, as these could indicate other medical conditions, such as a bacterial infection or diabetes.

Clear urine

If your urine is completely colourless you might be overdoing it with your water intake (called water overloading) or the fluid balance in your body may not be well regulated, says Australian nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan.

“Water overloading can result in a drop in the level of sodium in your blood, and this can be dangerous for your health and leave you feeling nauseous and unwell,” she says.

If you’re passing large volumes of colourless urine and you’re not drinking an excessive amount of liquids, consult your doctor.

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Orange-tinged urine

You’re most likely overdoing the vitamin supplements if you have orange-tinted wee. Our bodies are very good at regulating the amount of certain vitamins in our bodies and when we consume more of them than we need they’re excreted from the body through the urine.

Similarly, a high intake of B vitamins can result in a yellow-green tinge to urine. While it’s not generally harmful, it is important to follow the recommended daily allowances for vitamins and minerals.

Don’t panic, and cast your mind back to what you’ve eaten. Consuming a large amounts of beetroot, blackberries or rhubarb can turn urine pale pink.

‘Occasionally, blockage of the drainage of bile from the liver to the gut may cause dark urine’

These veggies and fruits contain a pigment that gives them their colour and it is broken down during digestion. Depending on the acidity of your stomach, this process may not happen completely and it will then be passed into the urine instead.

If you haven’t eaten any of the likely culprits then it could be blood and this needs to be investigated by your doctor.

Dark-coloured urine

“When you’re dehydrated your kidneys don’t allow as much water to be excreted, so your urine becomes darker as it’s more concentrated with other waste products,” says Australian nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan.

Dehydration is the most likely cause of dark-coloured urine, especially if you notice other signs, such as your urine smelling stronger; you have a dry mouth, lips and tongue; parched skin; irritability; confusion; headache or fatigue.

“Occasionally, blockage of the drainage of bile from the liver to the gut may cause dark urine, along with pale stools,” says Dickon Hayne, professor of urology at the University of Western Australia, and this is a condition that needs medical attention.

When you see red

“Red blood in the urine, particularly with clots, should never be ignored,” warns Dr Tim Mathew, a medical director at Kidney Health Australia. “The most serious cause is cancer of the urinary tract or kidney, but other causes include kidney stones and urinary tract infection. Dark red or cola-coloured urine can be a sign of nephritis [kidney inflammation].”

If you experience blood in your urine together with intense back pain, fever, nausea or a burning sensation when you urinate, it may need further investigation and you should ideally see your doctor without delay.

Foaming urine

“Foamy urine – where the bubbles linger instead of rapidly going away – is a reliable sign of excess protein,” says Dr Tim Mathew, a medical director at Kidney Health Australia.

If you’re pregnant this should always be investigated, but even if you’re not, you should see your doctor as it may indicate a problem with your body’s filtering system, such as nephritis (kidney inflammation). “Swelling of the ankles, tiredness, occasional dark-red colour in the urine and aching in both loins are signs of an underlying kidney inflammation,” Mathew says.

SOURCES: AREMEDIASYNDICATION.COM.AU/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA

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