CENTURIES ago, doctors tasted their patients’ urine to diagnose diabetes. If it was sweet, it meant the body wasn’t properly clearing away glucose.
Fortunately, we have more advanced — and much less gross — medical tests available today, but the ancient clinicians were on to something: Your pee is an excellent predictor of your health.
“Urine is a byproduct that includes fluids and other filtrates that come out of your body so it can tell you what’s going on inside,” says Tomas Griebling, vice chair of the department of urology at the University of Kansas.
Take a peek at your pee before you flush, and watch out for these six signs.
The sign: Dark yellow colour
What it means: You’re dehydrated — but you probably already knew that. What you may not know is that even short-term dehydration, like not guzzling enough fluids during your work day or workout, can set you up for more serious bladder conditions down the road. “When you’re dehydrated, your body tries to conserve fluid so your urine becomes more concentrated,” Dr. Griebling says. The chemicals in your urine come into contact with the lining of your bladder and can cause irritation, which may lead to incontinence or an infection. Ideally, your pee should be consistently clear or light yellow. Up your H2O intake if it’s dark to help restore hydration.
The sign: Red urine
What it means: There’s blood in your pee, a condition called hematuria. That’s never normal, “so you should get it checked out as soon as possible,” Dr. Griebling says. Causes of bloody urine include trauma, kidney disease or cancer, inflammation or an infection in the kidneys, and more. Taking blood thinners can also make your urine red, but it’s still important to see a doc, stat.
The sign: Strong-smelling urine
What it means: First, rule out any foods or drinks you recently had. “The classic example is asparagus,” says Dr. Griebling. Some people have an enzyme that breaks down asparagus to a compound with a strong odour that you’ll notice within 20 to 30 minutes of eating the vegetable. That’s nothing to worry about. Coffee can also make urine smell, especially if you’re dehydrated. Bacteria that causes a urinary tract infection (UTI) can also produce a foul smell. If you have any other signs of a UTI, such as burning when you pee, a fever, or cloudy urine, let your doc know. You may need an antibiotic to fight off the infection.
The sign: Foamy or bubbly urine
What it means: You could have kidney disease. When your kidney’s filtering units aren’t working properly, that can lead to a build-up of protein in your urine. The protein then creates a foamy appearance when it hits the water in the toilet. You may be at risk for kidney disease if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family member with the condition.
The sign: Increased urgency or frequency
What it means: You might have an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The prostate gland surrounds the urethra through which urine leaves the body. As the gland grows bigger, it can press on the urethra and cause a variety of changes in urination. Urgency means you need to go right away and you may have difficulty holding it in. With increased frequency, you feel the need to go more often and may wake up several times at night to use the bathroom.
“ Many people think that drinking less water will help with urgency and frequency, but dehydration can cause urinary issues, too,” Dr. Griebling says. BPH can also cause incomplete emptying of your bladder, so you still feel like you have to go even after taking a leak. Talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in urination. There are many treatments available for BPH including Kegel exercises, medications, and surgery, if needed — but also lifestyle changes, like physical activity and limiting alcohol and caffeine. In addition, your doctor may evaluate your current medication regimen, since certain decongestants and antihistamines may increase BPH symptoms.
The sign: Air or gas coming out
What it means: Bacteria in your bladder may produce gas that releases when you pee. If you have any signs of a UTI, schedule face time with your physician. Although less likely, you could have a fistula, an abnormal opening within the bladder or between the bladder and colon. You could be at risk for developing a fistula if you have a history of Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel disease — and you may need surgery to correct the condition.
If you’re concerned about anything to do with your health, make sure you visit your medical practitioner.
This story originally appeared on New York Post and is republished here with permission.
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