Diet and Nutrition

Does Red Urine Indicate Blood?

Red discoloration of urine could come about due to a variety of natural factors other than blood.

Does Red Urine Indicate Blood?

Key Takeaways

  • Red coloration in urine can be sourced from factors other than red blood cells. It may be originating in the kind of food or medicine you are taking. 
  • Overexposure to poisonous metals has been known to turn the urine red.

Many people see the reddish or darkish brown coloration in their urine and rush to get a medical opinion, but their fears are usually unfounded. This is because red coloration can be sourced from factors other than red blood cells. It may be originating in the kind of food or medicine you are taking. Next time your urine changes from pale yellow to the darker shades, mull over what you have eaten in the days or weeks ahead of the color change.

The Top Reasons for a Change in Urine Color

The Pigment of Certain Foods

There are quite a few heavily pigmented fruits and vegetables that metabolize to release red pigment in urine. A note of caution is not to assume that every discoloration in urine is sourced from pigmented food. Even if we are consuming such foods, a hidden urinary tract infection could be triggering the release of blood into the urine. Therefore, pay attention to the symptoms, if any, which accompany red colored urine. The following are foods that are known to cause a potential discoloration of urine:

  • Beets, or curries and soups made from them.
  • Blueberries and blackberries.
  • Anthocyanin-rich red cabbage turns urine a dark brown color.
  • Sweet flavored black licorice is known to color urine a dark green color.
  • Rhubarb, a plant often used as a laxative, releases a thick brownish colored dye in urine.

Exposure to Mercury and Lead

Mercury and lead are heavy metals that should not be present in abnormal quantities in the body. Overexposure to these poisonous metals has been known to turn urine red.

Medication and Chemicals

  • Pyridium is a painkiller often used to target urinary tract infections, but the drug also discolors urine.
  • Vitamin B supplements impart a darker orange-yellow color to urine.
  • In people with blood clotting problems, Warfarin is sometimes administered to dissolve blood clots. The drug’s thinning action on blood may also discolor the urine.
  • The use of a pinkish crystalline solution of phenolphthalein as a laxative can produce a dark purplish color in urine.
  • Chemotherapeutic drugs like Daunorubicin that are used to treat leukemia also discolor urine.
  • Chlorpromazine, a drug popular as a sedative in clinical psychology, discolors urine.
  • Nitrofurantoin used in bladder infection and metronidazole used to treat vaginal fungal infections produce a brownish discharge in urine.

Kidney Injury: Acute Tubular Necrosis

Injury to the kidney either physically or through toxic drugs causes renal tubules (carrying urine) to die, and this condition commonly results in a muddy brown urine.

Liver Failure: Jaundice

This is a serious condition impairing the liver’s ability to function properly. Its ability to metabolize bilirubin also slows down.  The immediate effect of liver damage is to elevate bilirubin levels. This shows up as a muddy brown urine.

Artificial Sweeteners

Sorbitol, the artificial sweetener sourced chiefly from corn syrup, is added to dietary fluids and cough syrups. It is known to blacken urine.

Artificial Coloring

Red40, the refined petroleum product and popular red food dye used in processed foods can color urine red. Many popular foods incorporate Red40.

  • Pizzas toppings, burger patties, and combination sausages.
  • Corn chip snacks, salad dressing, and flavored potato chips.
  • Caramel flavored popcorn.
  • Colored jams and jellies, flavored breakfast cereal and tinned yogurt.
  • The reddish or orange coating of pills and vitamins.