How to Tell if UR-ine Trouble

Going to the bathroom isn’t something we think much about, let alone talk about. So…how do you know if your urine is normal? It may come as a surprise, but urine says a lot about your overall health. From how hydrated you are to whether your major organs, like your kidneys, heart and liver, are properly functioning. Your pee can indicate whether or not there is cause for concern.

So even if you've never asked a physician about the details of your urine, you may be wondering what exactly is normal. To answer your questions we’ve turned to an expert, Sheila Warren, RN and the Women’s Health Navigator at the Gwinnett Women’s Pavilion.

What is urine?

Urine is the result of a somewhat complex process involving the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder and the urethra.

It is your kidneys job to filter through blood and help the body dispose of chemicals and water your body doesn’t need. When urine comes out, it is 95 percent water and the other 5 percent consists of salt, hormones, nutrients, creatine and urea.

What does my urine color mean?

Normal: If your urine is a pale yellow to a transparent yellow, you are normal and well hydrated; however clear urine may indicate that you’re too well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber colored urine means that you need to drink water as your body is dehydrated.

Cause for Concern: Moving on from the normal yellow color range, other colors including brown or pink/red could indicate some serious problems. If your urine is brown, you could be severely dehydrated or even have liver disease. When your urine is pink to reddish this could be the result of eating red produce, like beets, rhubarb or blueberries or it could also be blood in your urine.

Call a Doctor: If your urine color includes brown, pink/red, orange or blue/green for a persistent amount of time (24-48 hours), it is time to see a physician.

What should my urine smell like?

Normal: Since urine is composed of mainly water, it should not have a very strong smell. However, if you are dehydrated this can enhance the subtle ammonia smell. If you smell something unusual, though, this can indicate a more serious medical condition. Changes in your diet can impact the smell of your urine, including asparagus, onions, garlic and coffee.

Cause for Concern: Strong smelling urine accompanied by pain while peeing can indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Call a Doctor: Sweet-smelling urine can be a symptom of diabetes. A strong urine odor accompanied by other symptoms can be a sign of liver disease. If you notice these symptoms, see your physician.

What is the average number of times to pee during a day?

There are a lot of factors that can influence the number of times you pee in a day, age and size being a few of them. With that said, there is definitely a healthy range; anywhere between six and ten times a day can be healthy, depending on how hydrated you are. 

Medications or drink type (i.e. those with caffeine or alcohol) can impact the number of times you need to go. If you feel like you have the urge to go more than normal, it could be a sign of a UTI, an overactive bladder or painful bladder syndrome.

Is it bad to hold it in?

Holding in your urine isn’t necessarily bad for your body, but it shouldn’t be done all of the time and it shouldn’t be done if it’s painful. There is no precise amount of time where holding it in becomes dangerous, it is all based on how much fluid your bladder can hold. However, the longer you hold your pee in and the more frequently you do, the higher your risk is for developing a UTI.

An interesting fact that you may not know is that your bladder can be trained. This means that you need to learn your body’s signals and learn to interpret little pangs of needing to go to intense urges. If you learn to resist the little urges, your bladder will learn to hold a certain amount of urine in before feeling full and needing to go. You can train your bladder to be bigger or smaller when it comes to the urge to go.

Now that you have a better grasp on the basics of urine, hopefully you will be able to better understand its role in your overall health. If you do notice anything abnormal with your urine, make sure you talk to your physician as no question is too small. At the Gwinnett Women’s Pavilion, our expert staff will provide unmatched compassionate care to address any of your concerns related to women’s health. If this article leaves you with more questions about women’s health, schedule a free consultation with Sheila Warren, RN, our Women’s Health Navigator

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