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It can be alarming to see blood-red urine the toilet bowl, or green, blue, cloudy, or foamy liquid coming out of your body. Most of the time, however, there's a non-threatening explanation for urine that comes in all the colors of the rainbow.

The experts tell us that urine coming from a healthy body is straw-colored. It's just a little yellow and transparent. From time to time, however, urine comes in different colors. Usually, strangely colored urine is of benign origins, but now and then it is a signal that it is time to go to the doctor. Here's a rundown on the meanings of different colors of pee.

Pale Yellow Urine

Healthy urine is 96 percent water, with just a few other waste products.[1] The body excretes an acidic nitrogen compound called urea when excess amino acids have to be converted into sugar. The sugar stays in the body, and the urea, which would otherwise cause the pH of the bloodstream to fall, goes out. 

Urea itself is colorless. The tiny amount of yellow pigment in healthy urine is a compound called urochrome, which is made from recycled bile salts. Bile is the liquid the liver makes to dissolve fats in the digestive tract. Excess bile salts are removed both in urine and in the stool.

If your urine were in a bottle, you should be able to read a paper or a pad computer you hold on the other side of it. If you have dark urine, it's possible that you just aren't drinking enough water.

Completely Clear Urine

Completely clear urine is extremely dilute. It usually is the result of drinking too much water. Athletes who drink too much water during sports competitions, for example, and people on ten-glass-a-day regimens tend to have clear urine. Clear urine usually just means that the urochrome is so dilute that it's not visible. Don't drink so much water, and color comes back.[2]

Clear urine is also common in people who take "pee pills," or diuretics, usually for high blood pressure or edema. When the medication is discontinued, color comes back. The doctor will probably take a urine sample as part of ordinary health monitoring.[3]

In rare instances, clear urine can result from diabetes insipidus, the failure of the pituitary gland in the brain to make a substance called anti-diuretic hormone.[4] This is caused by injury to the brain or certain metabolic conditions. The kidneys don't get the message to hold it in at night, so sleep becomes difficult, and dehydration, despite the clear urine, is a constant concern. The condition increases thirst as it increases urination, but it becomes very difficult to keep up with the overactivity of the kidneys. Diabetes insipidus is diagnosed by depriving the patient of water, which should not reduce the production of urine as much as otherwise expected.

Orange Urine

Orange urine can be tinted by beta-carotene, the antioxidant compound most abundant in carrots. [4] People who eat large amounts of carrots can have orange urine. Orange urine can also be a sign of hepatitis, as swelling in the liver causes bile to travel directly to the kidneys. [5] However, the most common cause of orange urine is dehydration.[6] The kidneys work all night, when you don't get up to drink water, and keep removing urochrome (mentioned above) without removing the water to dilute it.

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