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What pee color is healthiest?

What pee color is healthiest?

by HealthPartners

No one really wants to think about it, but peeing is a necessity of life – and health. And besides the benefit of feeling (literally) relieved when you urinate, the characteristics of your pee hold important clues about what’s going on in your body.

It’s pretty helpful, actually. Your pee can tell you when you’re well hydrated, or if you need to drink more water, and when something is off and it’s time to talk to your doctor.

Most of the time we just do our business, and the next thing we think about is washing our hands. But every now and then you may notice that something is different about your urine. Maybe it’s dark yellow and smells stronger than usual. Maybe it’s cloudy or it burned when exiting. When should you talk to a doctor?

For the record, no health topic is embarassing to doctors. But we get it – talking about what happens in the bathroom can feel awkward. We’re here to answer the question: What does my pee say about my health? We’ll cover how the urinary system works, how to tell if your pee is normal, and what to do when it’s not.

What is urine? How the urinary system works

Your urinary system has an important purpose – it filters waste and excess fluid from your blood, creating a byproduct called urine (or pee), then escorts it out of the body. Several different organs make up the urinary tract, and they work together in a specific order. Your urinary system includes two kidneys, two ureters, your bladder and urethra.


Your kidneys are two fist-sized organs located right below your ribcage on either side of your spine. Kidneys keep the body’s fluids filtered and balanced by removing liquid waste (called urea) and keeping water and important chemicals like sodium and potassium at the right levels. Each day, your kidneys filter an estimated 120-150 quarts of blood in order to balance fluids and remove waste. In total, your kidneys produce about 1-2 quarts of urine a day.

Ureters and bladder

After your kidneys do their work, the urine passes through your ureters (two thin tubes) and into your bladder. Located within your pelvis between your hip bones, your bladder is a balloon-like organ that stretches and expands when it fills with urine. It serves as a kind of holding tank for pee until it’s time to remove it. Because urine contains waste products and bacteria, it’s important to pee frequently. If pee is held too long, or if the bladder doesn’t fully empty when you go, bacteria have the opportunity to multiply, leading to a greater risk for infection.


We can’t voluntarily control our kidneys, but we are able to control our bladder. So when we feel the presence of urine (the urge to pee) and decide that it’s the right time and place to go, we use our pelvic muscles to squeeze our bladder and move the urine out. This sends the urine into a connected tube called a urethra, which then leads out of the body so our pee can exit. Women and men both have a urethra, although their anatomical positioning is different.

Healthy urine is usually a pale to medium yellow color, it’s clear, and has a subtle pee odor. These characteristics tell you that you’re drinking enough water, and nothing is visibly abnormal.

When we’re dehydrated, our pee will smell strongly of ammonia and look dark yellow or amber in color because it hasn’t been diluted with enough water. Soon after you increase your water intake, you should notice that the color and smell of your pee becomes more normal again.

Take a look at your pee on a regular basis so you’ll know what’s normal for you and be able to act more quickly if something seems off.

Signs your pee isn’t normal

Pee can be abnormal for several reasons. Most of them aren’t a cause for concern, but sometimes it can be a symptom of a more serious issue. Here are some signs that your pee might not be healthy:

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Dark yellow or amber pee

Dark yellow or amber-colored urine is highly concentrated, signaling that you’re very dehydrated and need to drink water as soon as possible. Even drinking a glass or two after noticing dark yellow pee can make a difference the next time you go. When your urine is back to a lighter yellow color, you’ll know you’re hydrated again.

Clear or colorless pee

Pee that’s completely colorless and looks like water is a sign that you’re overhydrated. (Yep, that’s a real thing.) Too much water in your system can dilute your body’s delicate balance of water, sodium and electrolytes. Being overhydrated can lead to something called water intoxication. Your kidneys can usually handle it if you happen to drink more water than usual (even a lot more than usual), but if water intake is excessive, it can lead to serious health problems. Severe cases of overhydration are rare, but if your electrolytes drop too quickly, it can be life-threatening.

Pink or red pee

Urine with a tinge of pink, red or rusty brown suggests that blood is present. When urine has blood in it it’s called hematuria. Hematuria can be caused by a variety of things, including kidney stones, kidney disease, a urinary tract infection (UTI), an injury to the kidney (often from impact during contact sports), an enlarged prostate, cancer or another condition. If you notice blood in your urine, don’t be alarmed, but make an appointment with your primary care doctor as soon as you can. They can run laboratory tests on your urine or refer you to a urologist to help diagnose what’s causing it.

Cloudy pee

When urine appears cloudy or milky in consistency, there can be many causes, including dehydration, kidney stones, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), UTIs or other changes to your health. Try drinking more water to see if that changes it back to a clear, light yellow. If that doesn’t help, talk to your doctor right away – especially if you have other symptoms like pain or a burning sensation when you urinate.

Pee that smells bad

Just like the symptoms above, a bad odor to your pee can have many causes. Some of these include dehydration (strong concentration of ammonia), certain foods (most familiar, asparagus), vitamins and supplements, or an underlying medical condition. If you’re well hydrated, you haven’t eaten asparagus recently and you aren’t taking vitamins that might be causing it, talk to your doctor right away.

Other symptoms when you pee

Aside from the color and odor of your urine, if you notice other symptoms like pain, a burning sensation, the sudden urge to pee, urine leaking or anything else that’s different – these could be signs of an underlying issue that might need timely treatment. Talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing so you can get a diagnosis and treatment plan if needed.

Everyone goes on their own schedule, but generally, urinating 6-8 times in 24 hours is considered normal for someone who’s healthy, and isn’t pregnant. If you’re in the bathroom more often than that, you may be experiencing frequent urination.

Another condition that’s often mistaken for frequent urination, is overactive bladder (OAB). Overactive bladder is a separate condition that makes you feel like you have to pee more often than you need to, or you experience sudden strong urges to urinate.

A related condition involving the bladder is incontinence, which is involuntary urination that can result in leaking. Incontinence is more common as people get older but can also happen after childbirth or from other causes. Pelvic floor therapy can help.

Keep yourself (and your pee) healthy

Peeing is important – it’s how fluid waste leaves our body, and it keeps many of our other systems working smoothly. Here are some things to remember that can help you keep your urinary tract healthy (and the rest of you, too).

Drink plenty of water

Our bodies are made up of 50-60% water, depending on the person. And the water ratio in our blood is even higher, at 90%. That’s why it’s so important to drink enough water each day. Among many other benefits, staying hydrated regulates your temperature, helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure, delivers oxygen and nutrients to your cells, improves constipation and is, of course, essential to the urinary system.

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So, how much water should we drink each day? For a generally healthy person, the recommended daily water intake is 4-6 glasses. Aim to drink enough to need to use the bathroom at least every few hours. If you have certain health conditions or take a diuretic medication, your doctor may recommend that you drink more water than average.

Exercise regularly

Physical activity has so many benefits to our overall health, from helping us maintain a healthy weight to improving how we manage stress. It’s even good for our urinary health. Regular exercise can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to give your urinary system more support and better muscle control. Exercise also helps our bodies metabolize food and fluids more efficiently and can prevent constipation.

Be mindful of your food, drinks and medications

Certain foods and drinks can irritate your bladder. Some of these include alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, tomato-based foods, chocolate, acidic fruits (mainly citrus) and more.

Go when you need to go

When you feel the need to pee, don’t wait very long. The more time urine spends sitting in your bladder, the higher your chance for bacteria to grow and possibly lead to an infection.

Empty your bladder fully

For the same reason, always try to empty your bladder until nothing is left. When it’s emptied each time, there’s much less bacteria hanging around in your urinary tract, lowering your risk of infection.

Don’t strain to pee

Your bladder is designed to release urine very effectively simply by gently squeezing the muscles surrounding the bladder. There’s no need to bear down with your abdominal muscles the way one does for a bowel movement. Using more pressure can cause your pelvic muscles to tense and can lead to issues with incontinence. If you feel like you need to use more force to get your urine out, that could be a sign of a urinary problem and you should talk to your doctor.

Do pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises like Kegels are small squeezing movements that can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles – those are the ones supporting your bladder and other urinary functions. Strengthening these muscles can give you more control of your urinary and bowel functions, and can even relieve pelvic pain. Kegel exercises are sometimes described as pretending you need to pee, but then holding it in.

When to talk to a doctor about irregular urine

Pee isn’t the most fun topic, but if you pay attention, it can hold important clues about your health.

The next time you’re in the loo, try to remember the healthy pee chart. Once you’re more aware of what certain changes in your urine might mean, you’ll have a better idea about what your body is telling you. Sometimes it’s just a hint to drink more water, but if you notice changes like cloudiness, blood, a bad odor or anything else out of the ordinary, make it a priority to talk to your doctor. Whether it’s your primary care doctor, your OB-GYN doctor or your child’s pediatrician, they’re all there to help.

You can also get convenient care virtually for things like UTIs, plus nearly 60 other conditions. Virtuwell is a simple, convenient and affordable way to get online care for your whole family.

What The Color of Your Pee Says About You

Urine has been a useful tool of diagnosis since the earliest days of medicine. It can tell a lot about what’s going on in your body, from how hydrated you are to whether you might have a urinary tract infection.

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Here’s a look at some of the things it can tell you from urologist Petar Bajic, MD.

What color should urine be?

Your urine is a mix of water, electrolytes and waste that your kidneys filter out from your blood.

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When you’re healthy and hydrated, your urine should fall somewhere between colorless and the color of light straw and honey. When you don’t consume enough fluids, your urine becomes more concentrated and turns a darker yellow or amber color.

“It’s completely normal for the color of your urine to vary a little day by day,” says Dr. Bajic. “But it should stay within a certain range of yellow.”

But what about when the color changes and moves to other sections of the crayon box? First, relax: There may be a simple explanation. Certain foods, antibiotics, laxatives and dyes can temporarily turn your urine a different hue.

Of course, that attention-grabbing color may be a sign of a bigger issue, too: “If you see something really unusual, don’t just ignore it,” says Dr. Bajic.

So let’s explore what is normal and what deserves some extra attention.

No color (transparent)

Clear urine sends a clear message: You may be drinking too much water.

Now it’s true your body needs water to stay hydrated and function properly. The basic rule of thumb is to aim for drinking 64 ounces of fluid a day to keep your system operating at peak efficiency.

Surging over that total can make your urine start to look like the water you’re guzzling down. (Plus, you’re going to be making a lot of trips to the restroom as your body works to drain out all that extra fluid.)

An occasional clear pee isn’t a big deal. But if it’s an ongoing issue you may be lowering salt and electrolyte levels below what your body needs.

What if your urine is clear and you’re not knocking back glass after glass of water? That may signal an underlying kidney problem or diabetes. In this situation, it’s best to see a doctor to get answers.

Pale straw to a dark yellow color

Good news! You’re in the preferred section of the urine color chart.

Urine that falls in the pale yellow category signals that you’re healthy and hydrated, says Dr. Bajic. That yellowish color, by the way, is caused by a pigment called urochrome produced by your body.

Amber or honey colored

Darker urine is your body talking to you. What’s it saying? Basically, drink some water, says Dr. Bajic.

The darker hue is a sign of mild dehydration. Basically, your urine is a more concentrated mix due to a lower-than-needed level of fluid in your system. This can happen if you’ve been outside sweating on a hot day or just finished a workout.

Refill your tank and the color should go back to normal.

Syrup or brown ale colored

Your dehydration level just crossed a line into a more worrisome status. Get fluids in ASAP.

A flow that’s dark brown also could be caused by bile getting into your urine, a sign of liver disease. Rusty or brown-colored pee also is a symptom of porphyria, a rare disorder affecting the skin and nervous system.

If rehydrating doesn’t lighten up your urine, see your doctor.

Pink to reddish colored

The explanation for this unexpected turn on the color wheel could be as simple as what you ate, notes Dr. Bajic. If beets, blueberries or rhubarb passed through your lips within the last day or so, you may be seeing the results.

If you haven’t eaten anything like that, though… well, there may be a reason for concern. Pink or reddish urine could be a sign of:

  • Blood in your urine.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Cancers of the kidney or bladder.
  • Kidney stones.
  • A urinary tract infection.
  • Prostate problems.
  • Lead or mercury poisoning.

Contact your doctor as soon as possible if the color doesn’t return to yellow.

Orange colored

You may not be drinking enough water if your pee looks orange. Or you could have a liver or bile duct condition. Or it could be food dye or medications.

Rehydrate first and contact your doctor if the orange color doesn’t disappear.

Blue or green colored

OK… this is definitely different.

Most likely, it’s the result of something you ate (think heavily dyed foods) or a medication, says Dr. Bajic. However, a rare genetic disease involving hypercalcemia can turn your urine blue or green. Ditto for certain bacteria that can infect the urinary tract.

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See your doctor if you continue to urinate this color.

Cloudy urine

Urinary tract infections and kidney stones can cause urine to become cloudy. Once again, too, dehydration also could be the culprit.

Drink plenty of water and call your doctor if the symptoms persist.

Foaming or fizzing urine

The explanation here could just be basic hydraulics, says Dr. Bajic. Basically, you’re emptying a lot out of your bladder and stirring up toilet water a bit more than usual with a heavy and intense stream.

However, foaming or fizzing also could indicate excess protein in your diet or a kidney problem. See a doctor if this happens consistently.

Final word

You can tell a lot just from looking at your urine. But medical professionals can tell a lot more from doing the kind of sophisticated analysis that comes with a urine test during a regular physical examination.

You’re not just putting urine in that cup when you visit the doctor’s appointment. You’re providing information — and that can be one of the best things you can do for your health.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

What Your Urine Is Telling You About Your Health + A Pee Color Chart

Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.

Medical review by

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who completed her family medicine training at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia.

November 1, 2020

Urine health may not always be top of mind, but when something changes (color, smell, consistency), in your normal pee patterns, it can be concerning. While getting a urine sample or talking to a doctor is a good idea, there are a few things to keep in mind about what different color urine might be signaling. Let’s talk pee:


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Your pee color chart and what it means.

Urine color can range from clear to brown (see chart below for the full spectrum). While some of these hues may seem a bit, well, alarming, experts share exactly what each of these pee colors means about your health.

Pee color chart

Image by Grace Lee


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If you thought clear urine was a sign of good health, you’re not alone. A lot of people think the more water, the better—but that’s not necessarily true.

What it means: Clear pee is one of the first indicators of overhydration. The body is attempting to get rid of the excess water you’ve ingested, urologist Vannita Simma-Chiang, M.D., tells mbg.

What to do: Stop drinking until you’re thirsty again and pee returns to a normal, light yellow.

Light yellow

What it means: A light yellow urine is completely normal, Simma-Chiang says. This is the optimal urine color to maintain.

What to do: Whatever you’ve been doing, because it’s working. (Here: A pee health routine to follow.)


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Dark yellow

What it means: Dark yellow urine is common in the morning when more than eight hours have passed since your last drink of water. It can also happen throughout the day, though, if you’ve gone too long without hydrating. Simply put, Simma-Chiang says, «It probably means you’re slightly dehydrated.»

What to do: Drink some water, and consider limiting dehydrating food and drinks.


What it means: Certain urinary tract infection (UTI) medications or multivitamins, like B12 and C, can lead to an orange-hued pee, Simma-Chiang says.

What to do: Be aware of the vitamins and medications you’re taking, and ask your doctor if you’re concerned about the color.


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What it means: Similar to orange urine, green urine may be a side effect of certain vitamins. It could also be caused by green food dye. «That’s a slight, light green,» Simma-Chiang says. «It shouldn’t be bright.»

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What to do: Take note of the vitamins or food you’ve consumed. If the color persists or seems alarming, consult with a doctor.


What it means: If you’ve visited a urologist or had a procedure done recently, you may have been given a medication called methylene blue, which will turn the urine a bright blue color, she explains. Certain blue-dyed foods can also be the cause.

What to do: This should pass when you stop taking the medication or pee out the rest of the food dye. Call your doctor with any concerns.


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Light pink to red

What it means: Unless you’ve eaten beets recently, red or pink urine could indicate blood. «If your urine is red or has a thick blood-like consistency, that’s absolutely abnormal,» she tells mbg.

Light pink can also be an indicator of kidney stones or bleeding in the urinary tract. If you’re menstruating, it could just be menstrual blood mixing with the urine, not the urine itself.

What to do: Anything bright red is alarming, so Simma-Chiang urges calling a physician or urologist to get it examined. If you’re unsure whether or not it’s menstrual blood, call a gynecologist.


What it means: There might be a fistula (aka an abnormal connection) between the urinary tract and the rectum or the bowels, Simma-Chiang says. It may also indicate blood in the urine, liver disease, kidney disease, or an infection.

What to do: Call a doctor or urologist to get this examined.

When to seek medical help:

«Don’t be afraid to bring your questions to your doctor,» biophysicist Ajay Goel, Ph.D., previously told mbg. «Remember, your doctor has seen and heard everything, so don’t hold back when you need to discuss your concerns.»

If you think a new supplement or medication may be to blame for your strange pee color, stop taking it (under your doctor’s guidance) and track the pee to see if anything changes.

If you’re not taking anything new but are noticing abnormal changes to your urine, talking to a doctor or getting a urine sample tested is the safest bet. Especially if urine is red, pink, brown, or has a strange smell and consistency.

Other FAQs about pee color:

What about the consistency?

«An occasional milky or cloudy appearance of urine can be normal—especially in the morning when you may be slightly dehydrated,» Goel says. If it’s persistent, though, it might be a sign of a urinary tract infection. While there’s mixed research about whether or not cloudy urine is a sign of a UTI1

, seeing a doctor or a urologist to rule out bacterial infections is a good idea. «If you have a history of stone disease, crystals may also appear in urine, making it cloudy,» Simma-Chiang adds.

What about the smell?

So your urine is smelling. um, different. and you haven’t had any asparagus? «That could be medication changes, or if you ate something unusual,» Simma-Chiang says. Other foods that commonly cause a change in urine smell are fish, onion, garlic, and coffee, to name a few. Strong-smelling pee might also be a sign of yeast infection, candida overgrowth, or urinary tract infection (UTI).

How often should you be peeing?

In general, the average, healthy person will pee between three and four times per day, Simma-Chiang tells mbg. Of course that can vary based on age, medications, what and how often someone’s drinking, and more factors. If you’re peeing any less than that, you may need to drink more water. Peeing any more, and you may need to lower your water consumption—or consider speaking with a doctor, to rule out diabetes as a potential cause.

The bottom line.

Urine color can range from clear to dark brown, and the healthiest color for pee is a light yellow. While some abnormal colors may not be of any concern but rather a side effect of supplements and medications, it’s always safe to call your doctor and rule out potentially concerning causes.

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