A TV medical expert is urging us to examine our pee in a bid to improve overall health .
Dr Dawn Harper, presenter of Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies , says we should all take a peek at the colour of our urine to make sure we’re drinking enough water during the day.
Lack of water can lead to headaches, affect concentration and in extreme cases cause kidney problems.
She was speaking as part of a nationwide rehydration survey commissioned by SodaStream was published.
The wonderfully titled 50 Shades of Yellow report examines how much we drink and the impact it can have on our health.
The Rehydration Report features analysis and recommendation from Dr Harper, who says: “Urine colour may not be the most glamorous topic but it’s imperative we breakdown the taboo and take note of what our body is telling us.”
State of the nation’s hydration
- 7.2 million British adults do not drink a glass of water on a daily basis.
- 20% of Brits have been advised to increase the amount of water they drink, but a quarter of these don’t bother.
- An adults drinks on average 895ml of water during a typical day.
- 38% have a flavoured fizzy drink almost every day.
- 30% of Brits are urinating less than the recommended six to seven times a day.
- Women drink more water than men: On a typical working week, the average woman drinks 924ml of water every day, while the average male is just 907ml.
Dr Harper acknowledges there are differing advise on the amount of water a person should consume on a daily basis can lead to uncertainty.
She said: “There is still a lot of confusion around recommended daily allowances for water.
"And the amount of fluid your body requires depends on several variable factors including; ambient temperature, exercise levels and other fluid in foods you’ve eaten.
“One clear and simple indicator as to how much you need to drink, is your urine.
“A quick look in the toilet tells you all you need to know."
The report includes a pee test table.
It states: “The colour of your urine can tell you a lot about your body, with darker colour urine being a tell-tale sign of dehydration.”
To be pee-fect, you match the shade of 1-10, but shades 11-20 is also good.
From there on in, the shades reflect dehydration, ranging from moderately and highly to severely.
Dr Harper goes on: “I suggest we worry less about the international guidelines telling us to count how much water is going in, which range anywhere from 1500ml – 2500ml and don’t take into consideration the large number of variable factors.
“Instead, take note of what is coming out, using the 50 Shades of Yellow colour chart.”
What does it mean if YOURS doesn’t meet the gold standard? Read on to find out...
Wee that’s a darker yellow colour than straw suggests you’re dehydrated.
“People think, ‘I don’t need to drink, I’m not thirsty,’ but by the time you actually feel thirsty you’re already clinically dehydrated,’ says Dr Harper. “Even being moderately dehydrated can affect cognitive function, cause headaches and leave you feeling foggy.”
Up your water intake and you should quickly see a difference. However, dark urine that doesn’t improve when you drink more should be checked out by a GP because it can be a sign of liver problems.
Some of the antibiotics commonly given for urine infections, such as metronidazole and nitrofurantoin, can make wee a dark brown colour.
“People often worry that means the infection is getting worse, but the colour should return to normal once the antibiotics are finished,” Dr Harper. “If you have gallstones, your urine might be so dark it’s almost brown. You may also get very pale, floaty stools.”
If your pee looks decidedly day-glow, have a look at any vitamins you’re taking.
“Supplements high in B vitamins can give urine a vivid deep yellow colour,” Dr Harper. But it’s nothing to worry about.
If your wee looks like water, you’re drinking too much.
“Consuming a lot of water shouldn’t be a problem, but in extreme cases you can become over-hydrated,” says Dr Harper. “It can affect the biochemistry in your blood and, in rare cases, lead to fits.”
It’s not an issue if you’re just sipping at a bottle, but it has been known to affect people downing huge amounts of water when training for extreme events such as marathons.
Before you panic that you’re peeing blood, think about what you’ve been eating recently.
“Foods such as beetroot, rhubarb and blackberries can turn urine pink or red, while carrots can turn it orange,” says Dr Harper. “However, if your urine is pink or red for no reason, it must be checked out asap. Blood in your pee can be something as simple as a urine infection, but it can also be a sign of cancer.”
Have you been eating a lot of asparagus? That might explain why you’re peeing green.
“Asparagus pee tends to have a characteristic smell as well,” says Dr Harper. Green food colouring can also be to blame. “Some medications, including antidepressants such as amitriptyline, can give urine a bluey-greeny colour too,” adds Dr Harper.
This can suggest an infection, says Dr Harper.
“Your GP or practice nurse will be able to quickly check whether you have proteins in your urine.”
If you need antibiotics, your wee sample can be sent off to pinpoint the most effective one.
Have you been holding in your pee to bursting point?
“If you’re passing a very strong stream of urine, it can look quite bubbly in the bowl,” says Dr Harper.
If you see foamy wee all the time though, it can suggest you’ve got excess protein in your urine. This can be a sign that your kidneys aren’t filtering out protein effectively. See your GP.
P is for pain... (and pong)
If it hurts to wee, the most obvious reason is that you’ve got a urinary tract infection, but there can be other causes.
“STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea often have no symptoms whatsoever, but sometimes they can cause pain on passing urine,” says Dr Harper.
Smelly urine can also be a sign of a urinary infection, but pay extra attention to wee that smells sweet.
“A pear drops scent can be a sign of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes,” says Dr Harper. “If you’re on a no-carbs diet, you can also get the same smell.”
How to get hydrated
- Top up a water bottle at the start of the day and keep it with you. A lot of us find it easier to drink water that’s fizzy or flavoured, so try adding slices of lemon or lime to boost taste without any sugar.
- Drink with your meals. "It’s a myth that you’re ‘washing away’ nutrients and not absorbing them properly if you have water with food," says Dr Harper
- Carry on with tea and coffee. "Caffeine does have a small diuretic effect, which means you produce more urine," says Dr Harper. "Although a cup of coffee isn’t quite as hydrating as a cup of pure water, you will still be getting fluid from it."
- Does the prospect of night-time toilet trips put you off drinking enough water? It’s fine to get your fluids earlier in the day so you can then sleep through. "Six o’clock seems to be the cut-off point for a lot of people but experiment to see what works for you," says Dr Harper.
Dr Dawn Harper is working with SodaStream to encourage the British public to drastically increase their water intake this summer.
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