Not that we pore over our piss, but sometimes we’re curious about what we spy in the john. Weird colors and smells can be alarming (often they’re caused by meds or underlying conditions), but sometimes it’s just our diet. We caught up with urine guru Dr. Anish Sheth, a gastroenterologist at the Yale School of Medicine, and co-author of What’s My Pee Telling Me?, to find out what’s on tap when we take a leak.
Smell Like Eggs? You Ate Asparagus.
Everyone excretes distinct-smelling, sulfur-containing amino acids when asparagus moves through the digestive system, but not everyone is unlucky enough to smell it. “It’s not necessarily hereditary, but it’s a predetermined gene you’re born with,” Sheth says. “In fact, only half of the population can actually smell it.”
Those missing the DNA needn’t be jealous – rotten eggs, skunk spray, and garlic all create a similar stench. Want to be odorless after an order of asparagus? Snip off the tips before eating.
Purple Rain? Blame the Beets.
The first reaction to red-colored urine may be panic, but downing a handful of red beets in a lunchtime salad may be the reason behind the change in shade. “However, this is less common and doesn’t effect everyone,” Sheth says.
It’s not a matter of how many beets you consume; it’s how your body responds to digesting the root vegetable. Either way, don’t be freaked out by the hue.
Looking Radioactive? It’s Your Supplements.
Vitamin B is a popular supplement among women – offering a range of benefits from maintaining a healthy metabolism, reducing the risks of some cancers, and keeping healthy skin – but it’s also known to turn liquid waste shockingly bright and fluorescent. (hello, sunshine!) But fear not, the color means no harm.
“Sometimes people aren’t sure how much of a supplement they should take; this is just the body’s way of getting rid of excess nutrients,” Sheth says.
Too Concentrated? Coffee’s the Culprit.
There’s not much science known behind why some people report urine smelling more pungent after downing a cup of Joe. “We’re not sure if it has to do with the caffeine level, the darkness of the roast or what,” Sheth says. “There’s been little research done on the topic, but coffee drinkers shouldn’t worry.”
Toilet Bowl Blues? Blasted Blueberries.
Blueberries have been known to give urine and even stool a blue-ish tint, but, as with beets, this happens only on rare occasions. “It’s another digestion issue,” Sheth says. “When food passes through the digestive tract, it first has to be absorbed by the blood, and eventually seeps out through urine. A change in urinary color and smell is often dependent on how food breaks down along the way.”
At least we women can relieve ourselves at a public restroom in relative peace – imagine trying to hide your azure whiz at a urinal.