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Beetroot, artificial colours, vitamin supplements and medications can change the colour of your urine or bowel motions.
Knowing which colour changes are due to food or medicines can save you worry, or provide an early alert to get to the doctor.
If you see red and have not been eating beetroot, see your doctor. Strange pee colours due to food, drugs or disease Pee the colour of syrup or molasses needs medical investigation.
While it could be due to extreme dehydration, it can be a sign of liver diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, where a build up of bilirubin spills into your pee.
How much betalain enters your digestive tract depends on stomach acid and stomach emptying rate (people taking medications to reduce stomach acid may be prone to beeturia).
Once in the blood stream, betalain pigments are filtered out by the kidneys.
Most is eliminated two to eight hours after eating.
Persistent red urine can be due to blood loss, infection, enlarged prostate, cancer, cysts, kidney stones or after a long-distance run. If your pee is so colourless that it looks like water, you probably drank more than you needed.
Red poo can also be a serious medical issue due to bleeding in the lower gut, or from haemorrhoids, or harmless after having large amounts of red food colouring.
Concentrated beetroot extract, called Beet Red or additive number 162 on food labels, can be added to "pink" foods, such as ice-cream.
Whether betalain turns your pee red or not depends on the type of beetroot, amount eaten and how it's prepared, because betalain is destroyed by heat, light and acid.
I freaked, thinking it was a sign of terminal disease.
Then I remembered the roasted beetroot tarts served at the party the night before – so delicious I'd eaten three!