Now Streaming: 8 Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask About Your Pee

Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, MD on March 3, 2017Written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN on March 3, 2017
questions about pee

Everybody does it, but not everybody talks about it: peeing. The color, smell, amount, and control of your pee can provide clues into your health. And we get it. Sometimes talking about your pee can be, well, a little uncomfortable. But don’t worry — we have asked the questions that you want answered.

Most bladders hold anywhere from 50 to 500 milliliters (a little less than the amount in one and a half soda cans). When the bladder is about halfway full, receptors that recognize when it has stretched start to signal the brain.

However, there’s a lot that can happen between the brain, what you eat and drink, and the bladder when it comes to your urine. Here’s what you should know about your pee.

1. How often should you pee?

You should pee between six and eight times over the course of a 24-hour period. If you pee more often than this, there are several possible explanations:

  • You drink too much fluid.
  • You drink a lot of caffeine (a natural diuretic).
  • You have an overactive bladder, which can be the result of excess weight, medications, nerve damage, or other conditions.
  • You have a bladder infection.
  • You have a problem with your prostate.
  • You have weak pelvic floor muscles (usually due to childbirth).

If you are going more often than this and drinking a normal amount of fluid, you may want to talk to your doctor about how often you pee.

2. Why is pee yellow?

Your kidneys break down old hemoglobin, which is a portion of your red blood cells, and release the waste via your urine. One of these wastes is urochrome, a yellow-tinted substance. Urochrome can be amber in color, but when you drink enough water, the amber color gets more dilute and appears yellow. Ideally, your urine will appear yellow or straw-colored. If it’s so light it’s almost clear, you may be drinking too much. If it’s darker, you may not be drinking enough.

3. Why do you pee more when you get older?

While you sleep, your brain tells your body to release a hormone known as antidiuretic hormone or ADH. This hormone helps your body retain fluid so you don’t feel like you have to pee. When you get older, your body doesn’t make as much ADH. This can make the bladder get fuller faster. Also, the bladder doesn’t hold as much urine as you age.

4. Is urine really sterile?

A common misconception about urine is that it’s somehow “sterile.” People may think this gives survivalists license to drink urine or someone to pee on you if you get bitten by a jellyfish. Sorry to disappoint, but urine isn’t sterile, even when you’re totally healthy and don’t have an active urinary tract infection. Bacteria is present in urine, even in completely healthy individuals.

Bad news for those prepped and ready to help a friend relieve jellyfish pain. Peeing on a jellyfish sting can actually make the sting worse because urine contains salts. Literally, a person is rubbing salt into their wounds. Instead, a person should cleanse the affected area with fresh water.

5. Why do I feel like I need to pee when I have sex?

This sensation is a common occurrence for women, but physically impossible for men. Just as a man is about to ejaculate, the opening of his bladder closes to make way for semen to release.

Women aren’t the same. The vagina and bladder are in close proximity to each other. Sexual stimulation can stimulate and put pressure on the bladder as well. As a result, a woman may feel the need to pee when having sex. If she has a history of urinary incontinence, she may even leak urine.

Also, sometimes women experience an impending sense of having to pee when they’re about to orgasm. Sometimes they confuse female ejaculation with urine.

6. Is it really bad for you to hold your pee?

While your brain may tell you to start thinking about going to the bathroom when the bladder is roughly halfway full, most people can hold their urine until they can get to a restroom. However, eventually your body will overcome your brain, and you will (simply put), pee your pants. According to Columbia University, you’re not likely to rupture your bladder or have a bladder infection from holding your pee. But you will need to have an extra pair of pants handy.

7. Why can pregnancy and childbirth result in incontinence?

Having children can weaken the muscles and other connective tissues that hold the pelvic organs in their spots. The childbirth process can stretch these tissues to make way for baby. And they don’t always bounce back like a rubber band afterward.

Pregnancy and the expanding uterus can also place extra pressure on the bladder. As a general rule, the larger the baby, the more likely it is that a woman will experience incontinence during pregnancy and thereafter.

The good news is that there are lots of treatments available to reduce the incidence of incontinence following childbirth. Kegel exercises that focus on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, as well as pelvic floor therapy, may help.

8. How does food affect your pee?

If you see some pink or red in your pee, it’s not always blood. Sometimes the foods you eat can actually turn your pee a certain color. This is especially true for beets, rhubarb, and blackberries. However, you shouldn’t ignore pee that could potentially have blood in it. Always call your doctor if you haven’t eaten these kinds of foods and your urine is pink or red.

It’s also possible that some foods can make your pee smell … unique. An example is asparagus. Its components break down into volatile acids, one of which is appropriately named asparagusic acid. Other foods that can stink up your urine include:

  • curry
  • salmon
  • coffee
  • garlic
  • Brussels sprouts

Bottom line

If you have concerns about your pee, always talk to your doctor. Your urine can help your doctor determine a lot about your current health status! Don’t put off the conversation just because it may seem uncomfortable. It may help identify an underlying health issue.

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