Sometimes it’s clear. Other times it’s yellow—or even a lovely shade of amber. Yeah, we’re talking about your pee. And as it turns out, that chameleon-like hue in the toilet bowl can explain a lot about your health. “In general, our pee, first and foremost, indicates our state of hydration,” says Timothy D. Averch, MD, Professor of Urology and Director of Endourology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “But the color of urine can also be a sign of some other process going on in the system, such as a kidney stone or bladder cancer.”
In general, here’s what your pee palette says about your body’s condition.
Super subtly-colored pee is where you want to be. It means you’re taking in enough fluids and staying well-hydrated, says Averch. “However, in rare cases, if your pee is always clear and you’re constantly going, it may be an indicator of diabetes,” he says. “So see your doc if you’re peeing crystal-clear all day every day for a few days.”
Highlighter pee can indicate that your body is flushing out excess vitamins, says Averch. Vitamin B2 is the common culprit. (But don’t worry, neon pee is typically no biggie.
Most likely, a deeper shade of yellow pee means you need to up your H20 intake ASAP. “If your urine tends to be dark yellow, you’re probably not hydrating enough,” says Averch. “This is especially important if you exercise, during which you lose fluid through sweat.”
If your pee looks more like the color of tea, however, it could indicate that something is off with your liver or gallbladder, says Averch. Call your doc about testing liver function.
If you just ate beets, don’t be surprised if your pee turns a slightly-surprising shade of pink. There’s a specific chemical—betacyanin—in the beets that affect changes in the color of urine.
If you haven’t noshed on any purple root veggies lately, call your doc, says Averch, as pink or reddish pee might indicate there’s blood in your urine. “Seeing red can be a sign of kidney stones, infections, internal trauma, or bladder cancer,” he says.
Though you’d have to ingest a ton of dye for it to affect the color of your pee, it can happen, says Averch. Careful with those 7-Eleven blue-raspberry slushies…
Of course, color isn’t the only indicator of health. “If your pee is bubbly, it’s a sign there’s air in your urine, which can be caused by excess protein in your pee and an issue in your bladder or intestines,” says Averch. “Too much protein in your pee, for instance, can signal an issue with kidney function.”
Stanky pee may also be a sign of trouble. Unless you’ve just eaten asparagus, which contains chemicals (methanethiol and dimethyl sulfide are the two likely culprits) that can make your pee smell different, a foul odor typically means you have an infection, says Averch. Changes in smell—along with any pain or burning sensations when you go—mean it’s time to give the doc a call, he says.