Urinalysis: What Peeing on a Stick Can Tell you About Your Body’s Level of Hydration and Wellness.
The Other Day I Peed on a Stick
The other day I peed on a stick
and when I peed on the stick
I knew my blood was like poison,
but without my medication,
I’ll go crazy.
I’ll never be the girl in the movie who throws up,
pees on a stick, then says,
honey? I’m pregnant! And runs to her lover.
Buys bitty shoes.
Buys bitty hats.
I’ll never read aloud to my belly,
then deny doing such a silly thing.
I won’t look into a tiny face and see a glimmer of me,
of my mother,
of my husband.
I won’t be looking at someone I will love forever.
Someone to give the world to.
Someone for whom
I’d make sure
the world was something to fall in love with.
Trump is the President-elect.
I peed on a stick
and when I peed on the stick
I knew my blood was like poison
and I’d spare a child all sorts of deformity, sickness.
I waited the two minutes
you have to wait,
what if he changes everything?
What if someday I can’t get an abortion,
my blood like poison?
This is an excerpt from a poem by Rae Rose the author of Bi Polar Disorder for Beginners. Her body is an emotional, physical and medical battle ground. It is too toxic to grow a healthy baby, yet serves as a political tool in a debate dominated by men. My blog is not about any of these issues. It is about peeing on sticks. It is a reminder though that life could be
With the luxury of those untouched by heartache and personal tragedy my children and I have been peeing on urinalysis sticks. My husband, a man immune to the peer pressure of three excited urine scientists, chose not to join us. In this time we discovered that we don’t drink enough water, that tired sometimes means your son needs to go to bed earlier and sometimes means that your daughter is fighting an infection. We used Stacy T Sims’ ‘Roar’ (p253-256) and Wikipedia (what? This is a blog) to interpret our results. We urinated on our sticks first thing in the morning, after lunch and before bed, we held our sticks level waited for a minute to 90 seconds and then compared our ten colours to those on the bottle.
Here’s what the colours mean
Leukocytes are fighter/ white blood cells, if these are present in your urine your body may be fighting an illness. For the first few days we had very unexciting beige readings for this one. On the Thursday night before half term my test showed dark purple, a sign of lots of leucocytes in my wee, I didn’t feel unwell though, just a little tired. The next day, not only was my pee purple but my throat was really sore and my daughter’s wee now showed a pale purple reading - she didn’t yet feel ill though we just had the heads up that something was brewing. After school we came straight home and took it easy. Friday her pee was a darker purple and her resting heart rate was up a bit and a little irregular, she was still feeling tired but not ill. On Saturday her wee turned the test strip dark purple immediately and she complained of a sore throat and headache. Her wee showed decreasing shades of purple for the rest of the day, I was feeling quite rubbish but my reagent was back to beige, for the half term we both had niggly sore throats but our white blood cells weren’t showing up on the test strip any longer. My son was perfectly well for the entire testing period.
In her book, Sims explains that you may also have leucocytes in your urine straight after exercise as your body recovers. It may also be a sign to take things gently if you have been exercising hard and not giving yourself enough recovery time.
Nitrites in your wee show the presence of bacteria that cause UTIs
This tests for liver function and will show up in people with hepatitis or liver cirrhosis. If I was a drinker I would have seen how much I needed to drink to get a colour change, I’ll leave that experiment for someone else.
Proteinuria or protein in urine is associated with early kidney disease, so, in my early twenties I had the bizarre experience of needing to provide a 24 hour urine collection. This meant that I had to wander about with a funnel and a 5 litre collection container for a day to make sense of the consistent presence of protein in my urine, this sample was sent off to the lab and hooray all was fine. No one asked me “oh by the way are you a vegetarian who exercises a lot?” Sim’s book explains that protein may be present in urine if the nutrients in your diet are not sufficient, in that case your body breaks down muscle and amino acids. Simply put: If you don’t have enough protein in your diet body will take it from your muscles. Over the two weeks of urine sampling, I had protein in my wee every day that I exercised, not while I was sick and resting and not for the first sample of the day. This showed me that my kidneys are fine and that I should play around with high protein snacks on days that I train. If the first wee of the day did show protein then I should take that as a sign to rest. Lastly, my children were entirely protein free for every test.
The average pH of urine is between 5 and 8, this is a logarithmic scale so a pH of 7 (neutral) is 10 times higher than pH of 6 (acid). It is very normal to have a more acidic PH in the morning than the evening. My son’s pee was a fairly consistent 7. Mine was mostly 6.5 - 7. My daughter’s was 6 when she was ill and moved up to 6.5 -7 when she got better. We did notice that drinking lemon and water pushed our readings up to a pH of 7 earlier in the day. My apple cider vinegar and water didn’t noticeably influence my urine’s pH and a glass of ENO (a lemon flavoured baking soda drink) gave me a reading of 8.
Running a pee stick under the filtered water tap of our London home showed an acidic pH of 6 and unsurprisingly a specific gravity of 1. A very acid urine could indicate acidosis, dehydration, diabetic ketoacidosis, diarrhoea or starvation. Alkaline urine could be a sign of kidney failure, low stomach acid, pyloric obstruction, respiratory alkalosis, UTI, or vomiting.
Blood in urine may be a sign of muscle and cell damage from over training, it may mean that you have a UTI, or perhaps kidney trouble. It may also very helpfully be a heads up that your period will arrive in the next day or two as traces of blood show up in urine before it is visible to the human eye. I have a four week cycle that is very easy to track, yet despite this I seem to be surprised by and unprepared for my period every single month. Happily with my pee stick insight, on the day that I saw traces of blood in my urine I hunted for and found my thinx knickers, ordered more cotton tampons and sterilised my moon cup. The next day I was unsurprised to get my period and had supplies ready. If I was a woman with an irregular cycle I would buy pee sticks just for this little biohack.
Specific gravity is a measure of the substances dissolved in your urine. The higher the specific gravity the more concentrated your wee is and more dehydrated you are. Ideally you want a reading that is dark green to green, anything lighter than that is a sign that you need a drink. The weather here has been very warm and so I have been encouraging the kids to drink, they start the day light green but finish it dark. On hot evenings when teaching I am now much better at getting people to start drinking as we cool down.
The presence of ketones in your urine is a sign that you do not have enough carbohydrates in your bloodstream and so your body cannot get the glycogen stores that it needs to make energy. Having high levels of ketones raises stress hormone levels which tells women's bodies to hold onto their fat stores. It can also be a sign of burn out, starvation, malabsorption and nutrient losses from illness.
The presence of bilirubin is a sign of liver or gallbladder dysfunction.
Glucose is a marker of marker of sugar in urine. Despite all the baking the kids and I did over half term we had no change to the glucose marker. This is an important test for those who are pregnant or have diabetes.
And that is a quick run through of what you can learn about your health and your body just by peeing on a stick. It’s such an easy way to tune into your body that even a five year old can do it and can loudly take joy in the fact that the stick went dark green “I’m normal Mummy” and can pretend that it went purple to garner sympathy and extra TV time.
Sim's book is absolutely brilliant. It is filled with incredible research about women and their response to exercise. She writes about why women need carbs, about when in our cycle we should skill train and when we should endurance train - and 280 pages of really cool other stuff including a guide for pregnant athletes and for those going through menopause. I plan on writing more blog posts that springboard from her book over the next few months.