You don't need to be a chemistry major to decipher the pH levels in urine. The pH level indicates the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. Let's discover what the pH of urine means and what it suggests about our health.
What is the normal pH level of urine?
The urine constitutes water, salts, and other waste products from the kidneys. The normal pH levels in urine are between 6 and 7.5 for most people. This is generally considered on the acidic to neutral side; however, it can fluctuate depending on different conditions, exercise, and diet patterns. Generally, any number in the range of 4.5 to 8.0 is not a cause for concern. While pH alone may not provide all answers to bodily function, when combined with other urine parameters, it helps diagnose several health conditions, e.g., problems with the urinary tract or kidneys.
What affects pH levels in urine?
The pH level of urine is primarily affected by the food we eat. Research shows that if a person's diet is high in animal protein and grains, the pH of urine is on the lower side, i.e., urine is more acidic. A diet rich in greens and vegetables, such as kale, spinach, celery, etc., will lead to alkaline urine (pH>7). A balanced diet that incorporates legumes, grains, animal/plant protein sources, greens, vegetables, and fruits will keep the overall metabolic system happy and yield a pH within the normal range.
A diet rich in animal proteins makes your urine acidic and a diet rich in greens and veggies will lead to an alkaline urine.
Why take a urine pH test?
Urine test strips for pH are similar in principle to a litmus paper test but are configured explicitly for body fluids within the pH range of urine. The pH test strips measure a urine sample's acidity or alkalinity. It's a simple and quick test that yields a result in less than a minute. The urine pH test provides insight into how our bodies metabolize our food. In addition, it gives clues about the health of the kidneys and urinary tract. However, this test cannot be used in isolation to diagnose any condition. For instance, a high pH could indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a different kind of infection.
On the other hand, acidic urine creates a constructive environment for kidney stones. Hence, a doctor would use this result to set a direction for further testing for a more conclusive picture of your health. Regular monitoring of your urine's pH level can provide insights into your health and well-being. If the results are not within the normal range, you can ask yourself what led to the observed findings. Consistently abnormal pH levels of urine can indicate ongoing health conditions or be a precursor to a disease that has not produced physical symptoms. So knowing the pH level of your urine can be helpful in regulating diet, monitoring ongoing health conditions, and keeping an eye on your health and well-being.
Consistently abnormal urine pH levels can indicate ongoing health conditions or be a precursor to a disease that has not produced physical symptoms
How to undertake a urine pH test?
The pH of any substance can either be measured by an electronic pH meter or by using a reagent test strip. A urine pH test is most often conducted using the latter, i.e., a reagent dipstick test. The reagent pad of the dipstick, when immersed in the urine sample, changes color in response to the composition of the urine. It is a quick test with results ready for interpretation within 60 seconds.
Testing for pH levels in urine does not require any special preparation. It is common practice for a doctor to check any medications or supplements that a person might be taking, as they can interfere with the test results.
A doctor may also request a person to fast before this test. However, this is only likely if there are other urinalysis tests involved.
How to interpret the results of a urine pH test?
A digital pH meter provides a numerical result, typically on an LCD. The reagent test strips produce different colors depending on the pH of the urine. By visually checking and comparing the color of the reagent pad with the color key provided by the test, the pH of the urine can be easily determined.
For example, the Diagnox urine test strips change color from orange and yellow to shades of green with increasing pH values. A bright yellow-green color on the reagent pad indicates a neutral pH of 7. The urine is considered acidic if the reagent pad changes to shades of yellow and orange. Alkaline urine produces green, sea-green, and bluish-green shades on the reagent pad. The test is sensitive to the pH range of urine and can be easily incorporated into your wellness regime.
What do high pH levels in urine mean?
If a person has high pH levels in their urine, it means the urine is alkaline. While alkaline urine is mainly due to a diet high in greens and vegetables, it may signal the following medical conditions:
urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Higher pH in urine can be caused due to prolonged vomiting as well. Vomiting rids the body of stomach acid, which can consequently make the body fluids more alkaline.
What do low pH levels in urine mean?
A lower pH level of urine indicates that it is acidic. Mildly acidic urine is generally not of concern. Moderately acidic urine is usually attributed to a diet rich in animal protein. However, consistently elevated levels of urine pH level create a constructive environment for kidney stones to form, which is why it is vital to regulate the diet and keep track of urine pH levels. A low pH level of urine might indicate the following medical conditions:
diabetic ketoacidosis (a complication of diabetes)
The lower pH levels in the urine can also occur due to certain medications, supplements, and herbs.
How to improve low urine pH levels?
The urine pH level can be naturally improved by eating foods that are alkaline in nature and drinking water that is ionized and alkaline. However, you should investigate if you have health problems that are causing the low pH level in urine in the first place. A balanced diet consisting of proteins from various animal and plant sources, vegetables, greens, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and oils/fats ensures that you provide your body with diverse inputs and food choices. Diversity in the diet can help to regulate the pH of urine.
A balanced diet of whole foods and diverse sources will help to regulate the pH of body and urine in the normal range.
How often should the pH of urine be tested?
A simple answer is as often as desired. It can be conducted several times a day to determine how a specific food choice impacted the pH level of urine or a couple of times a week or month to determine how well your body is regulating your urine's pH level. Off-the-shelf urine test strips are non-invasive, simple, painless, and very affordable for routine pH testing of urine. There is no harm in testing regularly. It can help you make more guided choices in your diet while keeping an eye on your overall health and disease management.
Consider your body as a system. The input to this system is what we eat, drink, breathe, and absorb from the environment around us. This system processes it and produces output in the form of energy and waste products. We can learn a lot about the system's health by analyzing the output. For example, if you are constantly feeling lethargic, it implies either the input is insufficient, or the body is not functioning right to produce the needed energy. Similarly, the fluids we consume are processed and excreted out as urine; by analyzing the composition and properties of urine, we can gather immense knowledge about the state of our bodies and even get to know about abnormalities that have yet to produce any physical symptoms. Isn't that cool and fascinating?