What your pee can tell you about your health

2 min read

What your pee can tell you about your health
Health writer Susannah Hickling answers all your burning questions about pee, like how often should you go and what colour should it be?

How often should I pee?

Around seven times a day is considered typical, but everyone’s “normal” is slightly different, depending on factors such as age (you pass water more often as you age), bladder size and how much and what you consume.
"Everyone's 'normal' is slightly different"
Caffeine is a diuretic, and so—surprisingly—are grapes and celery. But there might be a medical reason for weeing more frequently, including a urinary tract infection, diabetes, kidney stones or an overactive thyroid.

What colour should it be?

Pale yellow is good—that means you’re properly hydrated. Dark amber, on the other hand, might mean you’re not drinking enough, though orange urine can sometimes imply a liver issue.
Alarming but harmless is red urine caused by eating beetroot. Some medications can have that effect too, including senna for constipation. But if there’s no good reason for your pee turning red, it could be blood, which needs to be investigated, as it could signal an infection, kidney problems or even cancer.

What’s making my urine smell?

Eating certain foods can give your wee a bizarre odour. Asparagus is a shocker, while coffee and garlic can also cause pee to pong. If you’re dehydrated, your urine will have a stronger whiff and a fishy, foul-smelling or sweet odour could indicate a medical problem. 

Why am I weeing less?

Dehydration is the usual culprit. But there are sometimes medical causes. An enlarged prostate which can block the flow of urine is one reason. Medications, including some blood pressure drugs which can damage the kidneys, can make you pass less water too. 

How can I stop getting up in the night?

Needing to pee at night (nocturia) is common in the over 60s, affecting women and men. Drinking too much before turning in, especially caffeine and alcohol, is often to blame.
"Cut down on beverages before bed and consider reducing salt intake"
Cut down on beverages before bed and consider reducing salt intake. Japanese researchers found that people who did this went to the loo less in the night, while study participants who increased the amount of salt they consumed needed to get up to pee more often. Consider taking diuretic medication in the morning rather than at night.  

How can I keep my urinary tract healthy?

To ward off infection, avoid tight underwear and jeans or leggings, and use unscented soap in the genital area. If you have an overactive bladder, steer clear of irritants such as cigarettes, citrus fruits, alcohol and caffeine.
You might also be surprised to learn that chocolate, artificial sweeteners and spicy foods can exacerbate symptoms. Drink plenty of water during the day. 

When should I go to the doctor?

If you’re peeing more than before or having difficulty passing urine, or have a fever and back pain, see a GP. Other red flags are urine that is red or much darker than previously, white and cloudy, or has an unusual smell.  
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