The color of urine has been a valuable diagnostic tool since the beginning of medicine, as it reveals important information about someone’s health. The elimination of urine is very important for different bodily functions; it regulates the balance of water in the body and gets rid of substances that are produced during metabolic processes and are no longer needed by the body. The color, odor and amount of urine can indicate whether something is wrong. The ideal healthy urine color is a straw yellow color, and anything darker or lighter — like cloudy urine — may indicate that you have a health issue on your hands, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Cloudy urine can be among common UTI symptoms or a number of other health concerns. (1) UTIs are among the most common bacterial infections affecting women. To make a self-diagnosis using the color of your urine, you have to be aware of the possible causes of cloudy urine and the best ways to treat or prevent health problems that are associated with cloudy pee.
Cloudy Urine Causes
Urine is a liquid waste product that’s filtered from the blood by the kidneys, stored in the bladder and expelled from the body during urination. Because urine is a compilation of the waste that has been present in your body, it’s a good indicator of your current health condition. (2) There are a few possible causes of cloudy urine, some more serious than others.
Cloudy urine may be a sign of dehydration, and when it occurs without symptoms and goes away rapidly, there are usually few consequences. In order to avoid a health scare, be sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Certain health conditions can cause excess protein or crystalline substances in the urine, which causes it to appear cloudy or foamy. Infections in the urinary tract can cause blood and pus to appear in the urine, giving it a cloudy appearance. A specific type of urinary tract infection called cystitis (which is a bladder infection) may cause cloudy urine, along with painful urination. (3)
Cloudy urine during pregnancy may be due to a urinary tract infection, as UTIs are the most frequent medical complication of pregnancy. It’s important that pregnant women seek medical attention if they notice cloudy pee or other UTI symptoms because risk factors, such as preterm delivery and low infant weight, are most commonly associated with bacterial infections during pregnancy. (4)
Kidney stones, which affect up to 5 percent of the population, may also cause cloudy urine because they can cause pus in the urine ,which gives it a milky or cloudy appearance. Kidney stone symptoms can be extremely painful and similar to the symptoms of a bladder infection. Because a kidney stone sometimes has jagged edges, it can tear against the ureter as the body tries to pass it. The tearing can cause an infection, which causes pus to be produced, thereby causing the urine to appear cloudy. (5)
Lastly, cloudy urine may be a symptom of gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can infect both men and women. Gonorrhea causes infections in the genitals and rectum, which causes increased discharge from the penis and vagina. The discharge mixed with urine may make urine appear cloudy. (6) Chlamydia, another very serious STD that may go undetected, can also cause cloudy urine.
Paying attention to signs and symptoms that exist in conjunction with cloudy urine can help you make a diagnosis. For instance, if you experience pain along with the cloudy urine, you may have a urinary tract infection or kidney stones. Pain from a urinary tract infection is typically present while you urinate, and your urine may have a foul smell too. Passing a kidney stone can be painful whether you’re urinating or not. Kidney stone pain can be agonizing until you pass the stone or stones.
Cloudy urine doesn’t always mean that you have a serious health condition or infection. If you notice cloudy urine for several days in a row, you may want to see your health care provider. When you first notice that your urine is cloudy, think about the medications that you take, what you’ve eaten that day, if you’ve had sex recently (as discharge mixed with pee can make it appear cloudy) and how you feel.
A urinalysis is a test of a urine sample that will reveal any problems of the urinary tract and other body systems. It assesses the color, clarity and concentration of urine, as well as the chemical composition. A urinalysis will also detect the existence of bacteria in the urinary tract.
Symptoms of a Bladder Infection
Cystitis, which is a bladder infection, is the inflammation of the bladder that’s often referred to as a urinary tract infection. It’s usually caused by bacteria that get into the urethra and enter the bladder. Once the bacteria are in the bladder, they stick to the bladder wall and multiply, which leads to inflammation of the tissue that lines the inside of the bladder. A common sign of cystitis is cloudy urine as well as discomfort or pain in the bladder and the surrounding pelvic region.
The symptoms of uncomplicated cystitis include frequently having to go to the bathroom and a stinging or burning feeling when urinating. Many women with bladder infections find that it’s particularly painful when their bladders are almost or completely empty. Some other common symptoms of a bladder infection include: (7)
- having a sudden need to urinate
- feeling like you have to urinate but only a small amount of urine comes out
- difficulty holding back urine
- urine that’s cloudy in color
- urine that has blood in it
- urine that has an unusual smell
Natural Treatments for Cloudy Urine and Possible UTI
Cloudy urine is commonly caused by an infection, which may be treated with antibiotics. However, continued use of antibiotics has caused the development of antibiotic resistance, which has become a serious health concern. These home remedies for UTIs, which lead to cloudy urine, help to boost your immune system and flush out harmful bacteria.
L-arginine is a type of amino acid that helps with detoxification and fights inflammation. It also has antibacterial and immune-modulating properties. L-arginine can play an important role in treating an overreactive bladder because it helps regulate and regenerate bladder cells. When L-arginine is converted into nitric oxide, it can also inhibit the growth of different microorganisms that may cause UTIs and symptoms like cloudy urine. (8)
A UTI is caused by bacteria that colonize in the urinary tract. Probiotics are used to help repopulate the normal flora of the GI tract. They aid the gastrointestinal tract or vagina to resist invasion and adhesion of pathogens, enhance the immune system, increase the population of good bacteria, and regulate the intestinal flora. (9)
Quercetin is a type of flavonoid antioxidant that plays a key role in fighting inflammation. While you can get plenty of quercetin from eating a healthy diet with foods, such as leafy greens, berries and broccoli, some people also take quercetin supplements for their strong anti-inflammatory effects. Quercetin can help regulate inflammation in the bladder, and it lowers pain associated with infections. Studies show that people experiencing bladder pains from infections, which cause cloudy urine, an urgent need to urinate, swelling and burning, have fewer symptoms when taking quercetin supplements. (10)
Derived from the petroselinum plant, parsley has been used as a natural detox remedy and anti-inflammatory agent. Apigenin, the main component of parsley, has shown to possess diuretic effects in addition to anti-inflammatory properties, which are essential in the treatment of UTIs. (11)
Garlic is well-known for its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, which are attributed to the presence of allicin. Garlic also exhibits anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune-boosting effects that aid in the treatment of urinary tract infections that can cause cloudy urine. Research suggests that the combination of garlic oil and parsley in pill form can inhibit bacterial growth and reproduction.
Some research suggests that cranberry consumption demonstrates a decrease in UTI recurrence over a period of six months. A 2014 study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that cranberry prophylaxis was effective in improving quality of life in patients with a urinary tract infection, and it was more cost-effective than antibiotics. (12)
7. Avoid Foods that Exacerbate Symptoms
A study published in the British Journal of Urology found that after patients filled out three-day food and voiding diaries, they revealed that the intake of certain foods and fluids exacerbated UTI symptoms and increased painful bladder symptoms within two to four hours of consumption. The symptoms were reduced with the elimination of these common problematic foods: alcoholic beverages, carbonated drinks, caffeine, spicy foods, tomatoes, citrus fruits and vinegar. Arylalkylamine-containing foods, such as bananas, beer, cheese, mayonnaise, nuts, onions, raisins, sour cream, wine and yogurt, have also shown to increase symptoms of a possible bladder infection. (13)
8. Drink Plenty of Water
According to research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, bacterial destruction from the urinary tract is partially dependent on urine flow and voiding frequency. (14) Studies show that chronic low fluid intake may play a crucial role in the pathologies of urinary tract infections and other diseases of the urinary system (like bladder cancer and kidney disease). Adequate hydration is important and may improve the results of antimicrobial therapy for UTIs. Also, it’s important to urinate frequently to help flush bacteria from the bladder. Holding urine for a long time allows bacteria to multiply within the urinary tract, resulting in UTIs like cystitis. (15)
A 2002 study published in the American Public Health Association indicated that acupuncture reduced the cystitis recurrence rate among cystitis-prone women to half the rate among untreated women. Also, women in the acupuncture group exhibited reductions in residual urine, which is a risk factor in the pathogenesis of recurrent lower UTIs among postmenopausal women and maybe even among adult women in general. (16)
10. Preventive Measures Related to Sexual Intercourse
Research published in the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal shows that preventive measures related to sexual intercourse may reduce the UTI recurrence rate. Women are encouraged to clean the genital areas before and after sex and to wipe from front to back, which helps reduce the spread of E. coli from the perigenital area to the urethra. Avoiding multiple sexual partners reduces the risk of both UTIs and sexually transmitted infections. Women are also encouraged to avoid spermicidal contraceptives, diaphragms and vaginal douching, which may irritate the vagina and urethra and encourage the entry and colonization of bacteria within the urinary tract.
11. Avoid Common Skin Allergens
A study conducted at the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that it’s best to avoid skin allergens on or around the genital area, such as bubble bath liquids, bath oils, vaginal creams and lotions, deodorant sprays or soaps. Many of these contain toxic synthetic scents. These products can alter vaginal flora and ultimately result in UTIs and symptoms like cloudy urine. (17)
Cloudy Urine Precautions
Although cloudy urine does not always mean you have a serious health problem, if you notice that the cloudy or murky color lasts for several days, even after you’ve tried some home remedies to reverse the issue, it’s a good idea to reach out to your health care provider. Some medical conditions that cause cloudy urine, like sexually transmitted diseases or kidney problems, shouldn’t be ignored, and they typically won’t go away on their own. Only a proper urinalysis that’s taken at a medical lab or doctor’s office can accurately diagnose potential medical conditions.
Final Thoughts on Cloudy Urine
- The color of urine has been a valuable diagnostic tool since the beginning of medicine, as it reveals important information about your health.
- Cloudy urine may be a sign of a urinary tract infection, dehydration, kidney stones, sexually transmitted diseases or other health conditions.
- If you have cloudy pee, discomfort or pain around the bladder, a need to urinate frequently and urgently, and a feeling that your bladder is never empty, you may have a bladder infection.
- Some natural treatments to clear up cloudy urine and prevent a UTI include probiotics, cranberry, acupuncture and good hygiene, especially after sexual intercourse.