What Does Your Urine Say About You?

Did you know that your urine is an excellent diagnostic tool for your overall health? It can reveal a lot about your habits and lifestyle. By paying attention to the colour, smell, volume, and presence of blood in your urine, you can stay on top of your health and catch potential medical issues before they become more serious conditions.

How much urine can your bladder hold?

how much urine can your bladder hold

On average, an adult’s bladder can hold between 400 – 600ml of water during the day[i] before a person feels the urge to urinate. At night, this volume can increase to 800ml[ii].

You should visit the toilet on average 6 – 8 times a day.

Normal urine output in 24 hours

Normal urine output

If you are drinking enough liquids, your urine output over 24 hours should be between 800 – 2000ml[iii].

A urine volume that is too high or too low can signal a medical problem. For instance, if you are emptying too much liquid from the bladder, it can be a sign of a medical condition called polyuria, where the body produces and passes an abnormal amount of urine.  If you aren’t emptying your bladder enough, it could signal other problems with your kidneys such as dehydration or kidney stones.

If you are concerned about your urine output and worried that it is too low or too large (compared to how much water you are drinking), you should measure its volume. Contact your GP to voice your concerns, and they will assist.

What colour should your urine be?

Ideally, your urine should be a pale-yellow colour, similar to that of straw. If it is a darker shade than bright yellow, it can signal dehydration or a medical problem and it should be monitored.

Urine colour chart

You can use the below chart to help you figure out whether you are hydrated. If you are having a hard time judging this when your urine is diluted in the toilet, urinate into a clear jug to assess the colour more accurately.

urine colour chart


Unusual urine colours

Some medications, vitamins, foods, and drinks can cause urine to be an unusual colour.

unusual urine colours

Pink Urine

  • Dyes in food and medications are the most common reason why your urine might appear pink or red. Beetroot, rhubarb, and blackberries can all be the culprit, as can certain antibiotics and laxatives
  • Blood can also make your urine red or pink. There can be several reasons why blood is found in urine. The most common reasons are UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections), or for women, blood may mix with urine whilst they are menstruating
  • Other reasons for pink urine can be cysts, kidney issues, cancerous and benign tumours or an enlarged prostate

Orange Urine

  • Certain medications, such as sulfasalazine (used to treat symptoms of ulcerative colitis) and phenazopyridine (used to treat some painful urinary symptoms), can cause orange urine, as can some laxatives and chemotherapy drugs.
  • Orange urine can also be a symptom with your liver or bile duct. If this is accompanied by light-coloured stools and pale skin, you should see the GP as soon as possible.

Green Urine

  • It might be alarming to see green urine in the toilet, but it could be as simple as dyes in your food or drink.
  • Medications, such as amitriptyline, indomethacin (‘a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and propofol (an intravenous anaesthetic), can also cause these hues. An inherited medical condition called familial benign hypercalcemia can cause blue urine, while UTIs caused by the bacteria called pseudomonas can make your urine green.

Urine FAQs

1)    Why is my urine cloudy?

UTI (Urinary Tract Infections) are a common cause of cloudy urine. Cloudy urine can also occur if you are mildly dehydrated. In women, normal vaginal discharge can mix with the urine, giving it a cloudy appearance.

Other common causes of cloudy urine include:

  • Calcium Pyrophosphate Crystals
  • Bladder Stones
  • Uric Acid Crystals (Hyperuricemia)
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Nephrotic Syndrome
  • Retrograde Ejaculation
  • Urethritis

If cloudy urine persists, you should contact your GP.

2)    Why is my urine frothy?

Your urine could appear frothy or foamy for many different reasons, from disease to diet to other lifestyle factors.

Having a full bladder and expelling urine quickly is the most common reason you might see bubbles and foam in the toilet. This is nothing to worry about.

However, if this persists and you experience any of the other following symptoms, you should see your GP.

  • Swelling of the hands, feet, abdomen, and face, which can signal fluid building up in your body
  • Fatigue and trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite, vomiting, and/or nausea
  • An increase or decrease in how much urine you void
  • Dark or cloudy urine
  • Male infertility
  • Dry orgasms with little or no semen (for men)

A kidney disease called proteinuria can allow too much protein to enter the bladder and urine supply. It can signal chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal disease and is very serious. Speak to your GP as soon as possible.

3)    What does dark urine mean?

Urine is normally pale yellow to dark amber in colour. This hue is caused by a pigment in the body called urochrome.  When your urine is more concentrated, the urochrome can appear brighter and darker.

However, in some cases, your urine can appear darker because of dyes and compounds in certain foods. Beetroot, berries, and certain beans can cause the urine to appear red. Certain vitamins cause bright orange or vivid yellow urine, and medications can cause blue, green or red hues. Your urine might also appear orange or brown if you have blood in your urine. This can be caused by urinary tract infections, kidney stones, or serious diseases, including cancer.

4)    Why does my urine smell?

Your urine can begin to take on a strange or unusual odour for a variety of reasons.  The food you eat, vitamins you take, or common medical conditions can all alter the smell of your urine. A change in smell can also signal a more serious problem such as diabetes, so if you are concerned, book an appointment with your GP.

Eating asparagus is the most common cause of ‘strange’ or ‘funky’ smelling urine. 40% of all people have a gene that allows them to smell a chemical change in their urine after they eat this vegetable. Vitamins that contain B6 can cause your urine to smell strong and of minerals and being severely dehydrated can make urine smell of ammonia. If your urine is smelly, it can also signal one of the following serious issues:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Cystitis
  • Ketonuria (excess ketones in the urine) causes urine to smell of ammonia
  • Maple syrup urine disease causes sweet smelling urine
  • Metabolic disorder
  • Liver failure
  • Gastrointestinal-bladder fistula
  • Chlamydia or trichomoniasis causes foul-smelling urine
  • Trimethylaminuria causes the urine to smell like rotten eggs

5)    What does blood in your urine mean?

Blood in your urine is always a cause for concern, and you should always consult your GP if you experience this symptom.  It can be caused by a urinary tract infection, kidney infection, cystitis, and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs) including gonorrhoea.

For women, vaginitis and thrush can also cause blood to appear in the urine. These are usually painful conditions. However, if you see blood in your urine with no accompanying pain, it can be a symptom of a more serious underlying cause, including bladder cancer.

6)    Why can it sometimes be painful or burn when you urinate?

Painful or burning urination (dysuria) is a common symptom of urinary tract infections, cystitis, and certain STIs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases, including gonorrhoea and chlamydia.  Perfumed or harsh soaps, detergents, and bath products can also cause burning in the urethra, especially for women.

7)    How is urine formed?

Your body uses the nutrients that you consume for energy, and to repair your cells. Your body utilises what it needs from your food, and the remaining waste is eliminated from the blood and bowel through urination and defecation.

Simply put, your kidneys and ureters create urine by filtering waste and water out of your blood.  The resulting urine, which is approximately 95% water, is then stored in your bladder until it is voided through the urethra.

The average adult will void approximately one and a half litres of urine each day. This helps to remove excess water, as well as a form of waste called urea. Urea is formed when protein breaks down in the body, and can become toxic when too much builds up.

8)    Where is urine stored?

Urine is stored in the bladder, a balloon-shaped organ in the abdomen.  It is located between the pelvic bones and can expand to accommodate an average of up to half a litre of urine. A person’s need to urinate depends on several factors including how quickly their kidneys produce urine to fill the bladder.

The bladder will usually stay relaxed and hold urine until a person can find a place to urinate, but some people find that this frequency increases as they age. Some people lose their ability to control when and how often they void.  This is due to varying factors but often the weakening of bladder muscles (or in some cases, overactive bladder muscles), and a weakened pelvic floor.

Incontinence in older age can also be due to dementia, neurological damage, or other physical barriers that make it difficult to get to the toilet on time.  Diet, lifestyle changes, and incontinence products can help sufferers maintain a high quality of life.


Urinary health is important for overall health

Be sure to monitor the colour, volume, and frequency of your urine in order to stay on top of your health. Your urine says a lot about you!



[i] https://www.pat.nhs.uk/downloads/New%20NCA%20Leaflets/Physiotherapy/662%20-%20Bladder%20Retraining.pdf

[ii] https://www.continence.org.au/about-continence/continence-health/bladder/bladder-training#:~:text=A%20healthy%20bladder%20can%20hold,6%2D8%20glasses%20of%20fluid.

[iii] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003425.htm

rence list

Brighton & Sussex University Hospital (2019). Patient Information Bladder training. [online] Brighton & Sussex University Hospital. Available at: https://www.bsuh.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/09/Bladder-training.pdf [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

Conrad, M. (2019a). Burning Urination (Dysuria): Symptoms & Signs. [online] MedicineNet. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/burning_urination/symptoms.htm [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

Conrad, M. (2019b). Cloudy Urine: Symptoms & Signs. [online] MedicineNet. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/cloudy_urine/symptoms.htm.

Editor (2019). Ketonuria occurs when high levels of ketone bodies which occur when cells are broken down for energy are present in the urine. [online] Diabetes. Available at: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-complications/ketonuria.html [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

Healthline (n.d.). Excessive Urination Volume (Polyuria). [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/urination-excessive-volume.

Kidneyurology.org. (2019). The Kidney & Urology Foundation of America. [online] Available at: http://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Urologic_Health.php/Urniary_system_and_how_works.php.

Lynch, J. (2019). The Urinary Tract & How It Works | NIDDK. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/urinary-tract-how-it-works.

Mayo Clinic. (2017). Urine color – Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urine-color/symptoms-causes/syc-20367333.

National Institute on Aging (2017). Urinary Incontinence in Older Adults. [online] National Institute on Aging. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/urinary-incontinence-older-adults.

NHS Choices (2020). Blood in urine. [online] NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-in-urine/.

Pietrangelo, A. (2012). Urine 24-Hour Volume Test. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/urine-24-hour-volume#purpose [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

Smith, K. (2018). What Do the Color and Smell of Your Urine Tell You? | Everyday Health. [online] EverydayHealth.com. Available at: https://www.everydayhealth.com/urine/what-color-smell-your-urine-tell-you/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

Watson, S. (2018). Why Is My Urine Foamy? [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/foamy-urine#causes [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

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