We are accustomed to our Fitbits tracking our health but are we ready for toilet seat trackers? Yep, the humble bog is the focus for a new generation of data-gathering gizmos, according to last month’s Consumer Electronics Show, the influential annual US tech conference. In the future, a device attached to your toilet will be able to test your urine each day for a range of health markers.
But until toilet tech arrives (and, frankly, it can takes its time), we can continue to do things the old school way – glancing into the bowl to see what our pee looks like and wondering what its shade might tell us about the state of our body. Let’s be honest, we all do it. One concern that crops up a lot is bright yellow urine. Why does that happen? And should we be worried? It turns out it’s not always a case of just needing to drink a glass of water. We ask three doctors all about pee - here’s what they said.
What colour should urine be?
“Your urine should be a pale yellow to amber colour - it varies from person to person,” says Dr Aishah Iqbal, medical doctor, personal trainer and weight loss coach. “The colour is a result of the pigment urobilin found in the urine. How concentrated the colour of the urine is depends on the colour of this pigment. The more hydrated you are the lighter the colour will appear.”
Why is my urine bright yellow?
- You’ve taken a multivitamin
“If your urine turns bright yellow a few hours after taking your multivitamin you can relax because it’s totally normal,” says Dr Johanna Ward, GP, nutritional expert and aesthetician. “People often panic when they see bright yellow urine after taking a supplement but it’s just the excess B vitamins being excreted and is nothing to worry about. “Some vitamins - A, D, E and K - are fat-soluble and some are water-soluble - all eight B vitamins and vitamin C. The fat-soluble ones can be stored in your body for future use but the water-soluble ones can’t, so any excess that you don’t need will be excreted in your wee. The water-soluble vitamins need to be replenished every day so ensure your diet is full of colourful fruit and vegetables.” And the fact that your urine is bright yellow doesn’t mean you have peed out all the vitamins’ goodness without absorbing it, says Johanna. “It’s just the body’s very clever way of maintaining itself – everything is carefully orchestrated and planned to perfection.”
“When you are dehydrated, your body will not excrete as much water via the kidneys as it wants to hang onto it, therefore any of the waste products contained within the urine will be more concentrated - including urobilin,” says Dr Zoe Watson, GP and founder of Wellgood Wellbeing. “So a higher concentration of urobilin means the urine will appear a darker yellow colour.” This is easily fixed. “It’s not something I’d get overly panicked about - I’d simply advise consciously trying to drink a bit more water through the day, which should sort it out.”
- You’re taking certain medication
“Over the counter medications and some prescription medications can cause urine to look yellow. Some chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics like Rifampin used for TB, anti-inflammatory drugs such as sulfasalazine, and laxatives such as senna are known to do this,” says Dr Aishah. Again, it’s nothing to worry about.
What about pregnancy?
It’s a myth that being pregnant can cause neon pee, says Dr Zoe. “The only reason a pregnant person might experience bright yellow urine would be because of the B vitamins contained within their pre-natal vitamins. Many of the common pre-natal vitamin brands like Pregnacare contain B vitamins (as well as folic acid which is the most important pre-natal vitamin). So if bright yellow urine is noticed in pregnancy, it would be down to that.”
Should I be worried about changes in urine colour?
All three doctors point out that eating beetroot can change your urine to pink or red in the short term, so don’t be alarmed in that instance. (It’s not surprising really, when you see how beetroot stains your hands and chopping board when you’re prepping it.)
But if you’ve haven’t been scoffing beets, you’ve ruled out the above factors that might turn your pee bright yellow, or if it’s changed to a different colour entirely, then you should probably seek medical advice.
“Bladder or kidney problems and liver disease can all cause urine discolouration so it's always worth getting it checked out,” says Dr Johanna. “I’d be worried about the colour of someone’s urine if it was orange or red,” add Dr Zoe. “Both of these situations could indicate blood in the urine. Blood can appear in the urine for a variety of reasons - from a urine infection to cancer - so it’s always something that should be checked out by a medical professional.”