Here’s a sentence I thought I’d never write: Your pee is a golden elixir that opens a sparkling window into your overall health.
Ugh. It’s true though. And to prove it, here are all the things your pee can tell you, according to urology nurse practitioner Anne Calvaresi:
Let’s start with a “no, duh” entry: “Dark yellow or amber urine means you need to increase your water intake,” says Calvaresi.
“Clear urine means you’re probably drinking too much water,” Calvaresi explains. This could mean you’re losing essential minerals like magnesium, according to nutritionist Carolyn Dean, who adds that a magnesium deficiency can cause everything from irritability and anxiety to seizures and coronary spasms. So if your stream is consistently crystal clear, maybe stop chugging from that water bottle.
You Ate Some Weird Food
“Blue or green urine could be caused by food dye,” Calvaresi says. “It could also be related to an illness or bacteria — see your doctor.” Speaking of food, unusual smells may also be indicative of certain foods: Asparagus, for instance, is the classic culprit behind many a smelly pee, and it results from sulphuric compounds that are created during the digestion of asparagusic acid. Meanwhile, garlic notably produces a strong-smelling compound called allyl methyl sulphide when metabolised, which may also cause strong-smelling pee.
Your Innards Are Leaking
Really gross-smelling pee can also mean you have a fistula — that is, a connection between two body parts that aren’t meant to be connected (e.g., an anal fistula, which is an irregular passageway between the anus and the skin, essentially giving you a second butthole — seriously). Fistulas can cause serious internal leakage: “A vesicorectal fistula is a communication between the rectum and the bladder,” Calvaresi explains. “In that case, you can see stool in the urine or urine coming from the rectum — or both.”
This can lead to the presence of faecal bacteria in the urine, which (obviously) presents a foul smell. If left untreated, nerve damage, infection and kidney failure are all associated with fistulas, so get yourself checked out if things smell rank down there.
Your Kidneys Are Screwed
“Occasional foaming is normal, but consistent foaming could indicate excess protein in the urine,” Calvaresi says. This is a sign of chronic kidney disease or the late stage of kidney damage — when the kidneys are damaged, they’re incapable of filtering protein out of your pee (protein is normally too large to fit through the filters). Put simply, the toilet shouldn’t look like a poorly poured beer after you let loose.
You Have a UTI (or Kidney Stones)
“Blood in the urine could indicate a urinary tract infection, an enlarged prostate and kidney stones,” Calvaresi explains. “This could also be caused by vigorous exercise (such as long-distance running), certain drugs or a tumour.” Calvaresi also mentions that burning or pain during urination may mean you have a UTI (or worse, an STI).
Your Prostate Is Screwed (or You Have Diabetes)
“Frequent and urgent urination — especially a change from your baseline — could indicate an infection, an enlarged prostate, diabetes, kidney disease or other illnesses,” Calvaresi says. So if you’re running to the bathroom every 20 minutes, check in with your doctor.
Your Urethra Is Blocked
“Straining or difficulty urinating may indicate a blockage somewhere, likely within the urethra,” Calvaresi warns. “In which case, you should see your doctor.”
You’re Constipated (or Stressed)
“Bed-wetting in populations other than toddler age could occasionally be normal, but more than likely indicates another cause,” Calvaresi says. Paediatric urologist Steve Hodges says this could mean you’re constipated: “The ‘real reason’ we’ve found is that many kids wet the bed due to constipation,” he said. “Now, that doesn’t mean not pooping every day. What it means is, not pooping when you’re supposed to.” Alternatively, wetting the bed could mean you’re stressed out: Clinical psychologist Charles Schaeffer told us that bedwetting above toddler age “usually signals overwhelming stress, trauma or anxiety that hasn’t been addressed.” In which case, therapy may be your best bet.
You’re a Sadomasochist
If you enjoy giving or receiving golden showers, you may be a sadomasochist. “It appears that urophilia is most likely associated with sadomasochism [sic],” psychologist Mark Griffiths, professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, writes in a blog post. He also notes two studies that link sadomasochism to urophilia (a sexual attraction toward the smell and taste of urine): A 1977 study found that 10 percent of sadomasochists had an interest in urophilia.
Which is all good and fine, because golden showers are actually an extremely low-risk activity. Hunter Handsfield, professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Washington Center for AIDS and STDs and chief medical advisor for the American Sexual Health Association, told the Daily Beast that golden showers are “far less risky than vaginal or anal sex, and even less risky than oral sex.”
Excuse us while we go take a (regular) shower.