Clear as urine. That’s not the expression, but perhaps it should be, at least when urine is healthy. Perfectly normal urine tends to be a pale, straw color or a clear yellow. “A lot of people don’t realize that when you’re well-hydrated, your urine should be close to running water,” explains urologist Arthur Crowley, MD. “People are confused about that. They’ll say it looks great but it’ll be dark.”

Urine gets its yellow color from a pigment called urochrome. “It has to do with the way the kidneys break things down,” says Dr. Crowley. In addition, healthy urine has a slight, mild smell. But what if your pee has a strong odor, or isn’t a mellow yellow? What if it’s pink? Or red? Chances are the cause is innocuous, but there are times when your body may be telling you something about an underlying medical condition.

What’s That Smell?
Normal urine should smell unobtrusive, but there are several reasons why you might notice a stronger odor wafting up from the bowl. Dehydration can cast a distinct aroma if your urine isn’t as diluted as usual, signaling that you need to drink up. Vitamins—namely vitamin B6—and certain foods are other common suspects. “Vitamin B6 has a strong odor, almost like old urine,” says Crowley. “It’s more a nitrogen-type smell.” Garlic can make your pee as stinky as your breath, and asparagus is well known for scenting your urine, giving off a sulfur-like smell.

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