What Color Should My Pee Be?

Your go-to pee source has arrived.

16/10/2016 11:01 PM AEDT | Updated 16/10/2016 11:01 PM AEDT
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Are you practically bursting to know more about pee, but have been too embarrassed to ask your questions aloud? Well, urine for a treat. A stream of pee worries plague people’s minds every day. For answers on this toilet topic, U.S. News talked to Dr. Michael O’Leary, a senior urologic surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Dr. Benjamin Davies, associate professor of urology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and chief of urology at UPMC Shadyside/Hillman Cancer Center. So consider this your primer on pee.

What color should my pee be?

This may come as a shock, but according to Davies, it doesn’t really matter. “We don’t care about the color of your pee particularly,” he says. “Many foods can change the color of your pee. If you down a whole bunch of beets your pee is gonna be red.” He also says asparagus can make your pee green. “We don’t really use [color] as a barometer for your health, unless you’re trying to make sure you’re hydrated, and we want to see that it’s relatively clear,” he adds. If your pee is a darker shade, like dark yellow or even amber, you’re not getting enough fluids. “Urine ought to be closer to clear than it is to dark yellow,” O’Leary explains.

How often should I pee?

There’s no “normal” amount, per se, experts say. Healthy people with healthy kidneys produce 2 liters of urine a day (about 68 ounces); since normal bladder capacity is between 300 to 400 cubic centimeters, that means you’re going about five times per day, O’Leary says. However: What’s normal for one person may not be normal for another, so there’s no need to compare, he adds. Caveat: If you feel like you’re going more than normal, discuss it with your doctor. It could signal something more serious, like diabetes.

Is there a proper pee stance?

Men, indeed, can pee standing up or sitting down. But men who have to sit down to pee should see a physician. “If you have to sit down to urinate to push it out, there’s a fancy name for that called credeing, that’s basically because you have to use your abdominal muscles to pee,” Davies says. “So you have to sit down, and you tense your abdominal muscles and get your urine out. Obviously, that’s a sign of a problem.” That being said, it might be a good idea for men of a certain age to sit down even if they’re just peeing. “I encourage men, particularly older guys, [to do this], ‘cause older guys are more likely to get up at night to void, and risk of falling increases with aging,” O’Leary says.

Is the “breaking the seal” myth true?

You know the drill. You’re out to drinks with friends when you feel the sudden urge to urinate. It’s commonly known as “breaking the seal” – the idea that your initial jaunt to the restroom will trigger a barrage of trips thereafter. “There’s no great science there,” Davies said, dismissing this legendary bar fable. “There’s no ‘breaking the seal,’ I hate to tell you.” In other words, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.

As far as myths go, Davies and O’Leary also debunked another: healing a jellyfish sting by urinating on it. “I don’t think urine is generally considered therapeutic in any way shape or form,” O’Leary says.

What should I do if I pee blood?

While beets may make your pee look red, urinating blood is a different story. Blood in your urine is never something to ignore, O’Leary says. It could be something as serious as bladder or prostate cancer, but also as benign as having exercised or developed a bladder or urinary tract infection, Davies adds. Age and medical status play a part in this, too. Long story short: See your doctor.

What do I do when it hurts to pee?

Painful urination could be signs of a bladder or urinary tract infection, a sexually transmitted disease or stricture (or abnormal narrowing) of your urethra – so generally, you should tell your doctor, Davies says. “If it’s painful or burning when you’re urinating, the first thing you think about is possible infection,” O’Leary adds. “More common in women than in men.”

Why does asparagus make my pee smell?

It’s complicated. “People who have the enzyme asparaginase, it breaks down asparagine, which is what is in asparagus, and their urine doesn’t smell,” O’Leary says. “The other ones just don’t have the gene for the enzyme.” Davies offers a different theory: You’re smelling asparagusic acid, which your body transforms into smelly, sulfur-containing chemicals. “It has to do with your ability to smell rather than the actual pee. Some people smell asparagus in their urine, others do not, he explains.

Is it bad to hold my pee in?

Holding your pee in during that long bus ride home from work isn’t inherently an issue. But making it a chronic habit may not be the best idea, as that’s training your bladder to hold more and more urine beyond the 300 to 400 cc limit. “I think it isn’t ever a good idea to really, seriously postpone urination,” O’Leary says. Davies agrees, “I don’t think you should hold it in for the whole day ... but you’re not gonna hurt yourself by holding in your urine.”

Could I ever pee too much?

Yes, and it could actually be a sign of a larger health issue. “People with diabetes often will present with urinating too much,” Davies says. This includes both the more rare diabetes insipidus (a salt and water metabolism disorder that makes you thirsty and indeed, pee heavily) and mellitus (what’s generally referred to as diabetes, when your blood has too much sugar). People can also create this problem themselves, which can upset daily routines and lifestyle. “We see patients all the time who train their bladders to empty frequently,” O’Leary says. Peeing too much could also be a sign of overactive bladder, a chronic condition, Davies adds, though for some folks it may manifest as the sudden urge to urinate.

Is urine sterile? Does that mean I can drink it?

Yes, urine is sterile, Davies confirms. But that doesn’t mean you should drink it. “We don’t want you drinking your pee,” he says. The trend of “urotherapy,” in which you drink pee or put it on yourself in hopes of achieving clearer skin and an energy boost, isn’t generally advisable unless you’re fighting to survive. “Since I’m not aware of any real studies looking at this issue in particular, my advice would be to not get stranded,” Davies says. “Urotherapy is bizarre, disgusting and not endorsed by any serious professionals.”

What if I feel like I have to pee, but nothing comes out?

Don’t fret just yet. “That happens to a lot of people, very, very common, both in men and women,” Davies says. “Usually that’s over your bladder kind of being overactive, or overly sensitive.” It could, however, be a sign of something more serious, depending on factors like the patient’s age, medical history or tagalong symptoms, according to Davies.

What Color Should My Pee Be? was originally published on U.S. News & World Report.

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