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The Urine Test: What You Can Learn From Your Pee

Next time you go to the toilet for a number one, take a moment to look at what you've done. This might sound like a somewhat gross habit to get into but it's actually a great way to keep an eye on your health and to have more of an idea of what's going on inside your body. Our bodies are essentially input/output machines; the input being food and the output being what we do when we see a man about a dog. This means that what comes out can tell us quite a lot about what's going in and whether we need to make any changes in our diet.

Furthermore, looking at what comes out tells us a little about the process that our food is undergoing on the way through and thus indicates whether we're in optimal health. It's really no effort to just keep your eyes open when you relieve yourself, so the only question you need to ask is what it is that you should be looking for. How do you tell good pee from bad pee? Let's take a look and grade yours in the process…

Some Facts

But first, some fun pee facts! Did you know that the average adult bladder holds up to 16oz of urine? Normally though, you'll go to the toilet much before you reach that point: generally once you reach about 8oz. That's halfway in other words. This means that when you feel like you 'desperately' need the toilet, you could in fact probably go for twice as long and drinking twice as much fluid before you started to see a problem.

Weirdly, pee actually has quite a few uses. Once upon a time it was believed to whiten the teeth and at one point it was even used in toothpaste! While that's no longer the case (thankfully), it is still used to make Harris Tweed – a type of wool that gets soaked in human urine!

Despite rumours about it being good for your skin, you should not drink your urine. There is no evidence to suggest it has any kind of health benefit for you and more to the point, it probably contains bacteria from the end of your genitals which can cause nasty problems.

Colour

The colour of pee tells you whether you're dehydrated or not. Drink a lot and the contents of your pee will be diluted resulting in an almost transparent, water coloured urine. If you pee a lot, it's liable to be this colour.

Meanwhile, if your pee is dark orange, this often means you aren't drinking enough meaning that it's not being very diluted. If your pee is dark orange then you should try and drink more water. If that doesn't solve the problem, then it might be a sign of serious kidney problems so you should go and see a doctor.

If your pee is bright yellow, this can be the result of vitamin supplementation. B vitamins and beta carotene for instance both contribute to bright yellow pee. Red or pink coloured urine meanwhile is often the result of red coloured foods, but in some case it might suggest blood, which is often a sign of a serious problem. Orange pee can be caused by blackberries or rhubarb, it can be a sign of jaundice or dehydration, or it can be caused by certain medications. If you have green or blue pee, then this is probably a result of things in your diet – though again medicines and supplements can have this effect.

PH

You're not going to know the acidity of your urine just by looking at it, but if you want to test your health at home then measuring it can tell you a bit more and may be a useful way to diagnose a potential condition alongside other symptoms. A very low PH for instance is sometimes a sign of lung disease, diabetes or starvation. On the other end of the spectrum, a very high PH or very alkaline urine could indicate a kidney disease or an infection. Ideally your PH level should be more neutral, but ever so slightly more alkaline.

Consistency

Urine should be like water in consistency. In other words, it should not be cloudy or foamy. If it's cloudy then this might mean you have a urinary tract infection, or possibly kidney stones. Foamy pee might seem alarming, but don't worry: it's probably just a sign of a large amount of protein in your diet.

Smell

If you eat asparagus or other foods, these can sometimes alter the smell of your urine. This is nothing to be concerned about, but if it smells sweet then that could be a problem. This suggests you have a lot of sugar in your urine, which in turn might suggest diabetes – especially if you're going a lot.

Frequency

How often should you be peeing? This depends a lot on who you are and some people will certainly pee more than others. Bigger people need to pee less often than shorter people, because they have taller bladders. Likewise, older people need to pee more because their bladder capacity is reduced. More importantly, the amount you're eating and drinking will also play a big role in the amount you go to the toilet – and especially if you consume a lot of diuretics like caffeine or alcohol.

As a general rule, you'll probably evacuate about 500ml per pee and this should – on average – equate to not more than eight trips a day. Don't be too worried if you go more than that but if you're going 15-20 times a day or it's interfering with your daily routine then it's worth checking with your doctor.

Bear in mind that there is a psychological and psychosomatic aspect to the number of times you pee. Some people will get into the habit of going to the toilet before watching a film or eating a meal 'just in case'. The idea is that they can avoid possible discomfort by going to the toilet early, but unfortunately this can end up training you to need the toilet as soon as you have any fluid in your bladder. The result? Lots of night-time trips to the toilet and a lot of discomfort on long journeys.

On the other hand, leaving it too long can also cause problems. If you leave urine in your bladder for ages on a regular basis you can increase your chances of a urinary tract infection (though doing this a couple of times won't hurt!).

So don't go unless you need to, but when you do… go! And take a look while you're at it…





Dr. Janice Rachael Mae

Copyrighted material; do not reprint without permission. 

View all articles by Dr. Janice Rachael Mae

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