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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Color of Your Urine

I often get called about all manner of urine questions, but one that is often the most curious to women is about the current color of their pee and what exactly it might mean. Patients want to text pictures, and really, I must insist that we see the real thing! And one color that always gets our attention and never fails to set the office phone ringing: red urine. And we have gotten reports of this a lot this summer! Farmer’s markets all over the nation bring a variety of wonders to our sustenance, and don’t be alarmed if there are occasionally some fairly dramatic consequences. The wind pollinated Beta vulgaris, or garden beet, which can occur in colors from deepest scarlet to golden pale orange can produce the medical condition of beeturia. Beeturia may appear to have the same bright red hues of urine with blood in it, but is not usually a medical issue in those who get this condition. It’s a genetically determined propensity to absorb the red and orange hues of the summer staple, so it won’t occur in everyone, but about 14% of individuals will observe this phenomenon. Even in those individuals in home it occurs, it may be an indication that there is iron deficiency, low chloride, low stomach acid,  or other chemical lack that allows the pigment to pass unbound and thus appear in the urine. So the red color may have medical significance even though, technically it was just triggered by the beet root consumption. Urine in fact can appear in all manner of the rainbow's colors. Bright yellow urine can be from too much riboflavin (vitamin B2). Urine will be white in cases when there are certain fats or too many white blood cells from infection, or black in the case of some infections and some metabolic imbalances. Urine can be brown just from dehydration. Urine can be pink with blood, or urine can be purple in those wearing a catheter, or in women who have this same chemical reaction to their diaphragms! Green urine can be from some veggies, like asparagus, or from chemicals added (methylene blue used in surgery will temporarily turn the urine blood, then green when it gets mixed with the natural yellow of urine. And the green beer drinkers on St. Pats: they can have green urine too!

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