The color of your pee changes based on how much water, or other fluids, you've taken in (because, yes, you can eat your water, too). That makes pee a great visual indicator of how hydrated you are.
But what does it mean when the color of your urine color strays from its usual shades of yellow?
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Urine may show up in a variety of different colors: reddish-pink, dark brown, light orange, bright yellow and even blue. And most of the time (though not always — more on that below) that change in color is the result of a harmless diet or medicine change and isn't worrisome.
Here we break down the nutrients or foods that change urine color.
It can definitely be alarming to see red- or pink-tinged urine in the toilet bowl... until you remember that you recently ate beets.
So-called "beeturia" is said to affect 10 to 14 percent of the population, per a June 2020 StatPearls report. Chalk that valentine-colored pee up to "plant pigments and other compounds in beets and blackberries that can affect the color of urine," says Taylor Wallace, PhD, principal and CEO at the Think Healthy Group and adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University.
Eating large amounts of rhubarb can also turn your pee pink or red — likely a result of the anthocyanins in rhubarb, which are the compounds that give rhubarb its vibrant pink hue.
Going heavy on the rhubarb could even turn your urine dark brown, according to the Mayo Clinic.
3. B Vitamins
B vitamins are found in a variety of foods, including animal proteins, leafy greens and fortified cereals and breads. There are actually eight different B vitamins.
While sources suggest foods that contain B vitamins can change your urine bright yellow or orange, it's much more common with supplements, and usually in high doses, according to Cleveland Clinic. Of all of the B vitamins, you're most likely to see a color change in your pee with a B complex supplement (which is typically a multivitamin comprised of a few different B vitamins) or if you take riboflavin (aka B2) or vitamin B12.
Also, FYI, if you're taking a B6 supplement, know that it might also change the smell of your pee.
4. Foods With Bright Dyes
This also isn't food per se, but food dyes are in some of the foods we eat — think: colorful cereal, soft drinks and certain energy bars. And turns out, some food dyes can turn your pee green, per the Mayo Clinic.
Ever heard that eating a lot of carrots can tint your skin orange? It's true — and that's because of the beta-carotene in carrots, which is the pigment that makes carrots orange.
That orange, slightly tanned hue is usually most prominent on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, per the Cleveland Clinic. That beta-carotene could also turn your pee a light orange.
Don't stress, though: Eating so many carrots that your skin turns orange is fairly harmless.
6. Vitamin C
"Some foods — but mostly higher-dose supplements — that contain vitamin C change your urine bright yellow or orange," Wallace says. This happens because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so if you consume too much — either via a supplement or from eating an abundance of C-rich foods like kiwis, bell peppers and strawberries — you just pee out the excess.
But getting adequate or healthy amounts of vitamin C, especially from foods, is actually good for your urinary tract health. In September 2014 review in the journal Maturitas, people who ate healthy amounts of vitamin C from food were less likely to develop symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB).
But people assigned female at birth who took vitamin C supplements actually saw their overactive bladder symptoms worsen. Eating the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, which is 75 to 90 milligrams — what you'd get in 1/2 cup of red bell pepper or 3/4 cup orange juice — is sufficient, but going over that with supplements might spur OAB symptoms.
When to See a Doctor
While a change in the color of your urine is usually harmless, it can sometimes be an indicator that something else is going on with your health. If you are concerned, speak to your doctor to determine if your pee color changes are signs of something more serious.
Dark yellow and even brown urine could signal that you're dehydrated. "It's important to stay hydrated to prevent kidney stones and other detriments to your health," Wallace says. Ideally, your urine color will be light yellow to clear most of the time, indicating you're well-hydrated.
"If your urine is consistently dark yellow or orange, and adjusting your fluid intake and supplements doesn't work, you should see a doctor. This can be a sign of liver or biliary tract problems," Wallace says.
Other colors like green, pink/red and brown — when not the direct result of something you ate — can indicate a medical condition that warrants a doctor's visit. Green urine could indicate a bacterial infection; pink or red could be blood or infection; and brown could be rhabdomyolysis, a condition where muscle tissue is breaking down and shouldn't be, per Harvard Health Publishing.
- Mayo Clinic: "Urine Color"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Urine Changes"
- StatPearls: "Carotonemia"
- Maturitas: "You are what you eat: the impact of diet on overactive bladder and lower urinary tract symptoms"
- MedlinePlus: "B vitamins"
- Pharmacogenetics: "Beeturia and the biological fate of beetroot pigments"
- URMC.Rochester.edu: "Healthy Encyclopedia, Riboflavin"
- Medical News Today: "Why Is My Urine Bright Yellow?"
- PubChem: "Indigo Carmine"
- Daily Journal: "Warning to parents as bizarre new Tik Tok trend sees kids drink nothing but food colouring 'to turn their urine blue'"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Rhabdo: A rare but serious complication of… exercise"