Why does this happen? And should you stop taking vitamins if your pee is bright yellow? Believe it or not, this happens all the time. While it can be unsettling at first, there is nothing to worry about. Here’s why.
Urine color can range from pale yellow to deep amber with little cause for concern. The variation typically has to do with how concentrated your urine is, which affects the pigment known as urochrome, or urobilin. Each day we produce hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that’s used to transport oxygen throughout the body. When this happens, the body’s old hemoglobin is broken down, creating urochrome as a waste product that then ends up in our urine, giving it its yellow color. But, the more hydrated you are, the more your urine becomes diluted, and the lighter it will appear. Everyone has a different “normal” color for their pee, but as long as you are somewhere on the yellow to amber spectrum, and doesn’t seem cloudy, full of particles, or have blood in it, it’s likely a normal variation.
Aside from how much water you drink, the foods you eat and the medications or supplements you take can also affect the color of your pee, and that’s likely what’s at play with bright yellow urine.
Bright yellow urine is common when taking a vitamin B complex, specifically due to the B2 vitamin, also known as riboflavin. In fact, “flavin” comes from the Latin “flavus” which means yellow. So don’t ditch your daily vitamins yet—they’re actually a vital part of maintaining your overall health.
B-complex vitamins are water-soluble, which means they can dissolve in water, so they’re not stored in the body like many other nutrients. Throughout the day, your body will excrete the parts of the vitamin that it doesn’t absorb, often translating to bright yellow urine. This makes it even more important to keep taking the vitamin and replenish your supply every day.
Not everyone will experience bright yellow urine from taking a vitamin B-complex. If you do, it’s likely caused by your own digestive capabilities or your specific supplement—the less of the vitamin your body is able to absorb, the more it will excrete and the brighter your urine will be. If you notice your urine is more yellow with some vitamin brands compared to others, this might mean you would benefit from a different formulation. At Parsley Health, we encourage pharmaceutical grade supplements in their most bioavailable form to ensure optimal absorption in the intestine. For others, bright yellow urine could be a sign that your body has a more difficult time absorbing these vitamins, often stemming from genetic variations that keep you from using some forms of vitamin B as effectively as others.
Almost every metabolic process—from breaking down nutrients for energy to hormone production—relies on B vitamins. They’re known to promote the growth of red blood cells, regulate proper nerve function, support brain health, and aid in good digestion. And while B vitamins exist naturally in many foods like eggs, whole grains, and meat, many people struggle to reach the recommended daily amount of each type, especially those who don’t eat animal products (where vitamins such as B-12 are exclusively found).
Since B vitamins play a big role in so many of our body’s processes, a lack of them in the diet commonly leads to lethargy, brain fog, or irritability—pesky problems that are seemingly harmless, but can negatively impact your quality of life. More seriously, a vitamin B deficiency can lead to side effects like anemia, loss of neurons in your spinal cord and a build-up of inflammatory amino acids like homocysteine. Additionally, it could impair your liver functioning, making it more difficult to effectively process toxins. Needless to say, B-vitamins are an essential part of your body’s proper functioning, so even if your pee is bright yellow because of them, keeping them in your regimen is important.
Just because you’re excreting some of your B-vitamins through urination doesn’t mean that your body isn’t absorbing them. Instead, it indicates that your body is taking what it needs and flushing out the excess.
So even if you’re experiencing bright yellow urine, don’t skip your B-complex vitamins unless it’s recommended by your doctor, as they’re extremely important to internal functions that maintain overall health. We recommend opting for a high quality multivitamin or a methylated B-complex.
If you’re taking dietary supplements like vitamin B, it’s important to have your nutrient levels routinely monitored by a doctor. At Parsley Health, we recommend annual blood tests to make sure all of your essential nutrients, like vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, and magnesium, are in the optimal range. Based on this comprehensive lab work, our doctors can recommend which supplements and doses are best for you.
There are a few things to look out for, as certain urine colors may indicate that a more serious issue is at play. For example, deep purple urine could be a sign of porphyria, a rare genetic metabolic disorder that can cause bouts of severe stomach pain or skin sensitivity. And blood in your urine can be a sign of a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or urinary cancer.
As a general rule of thumb, if you see blood in your urine or notice your pee is orange or brown, check in with your doctor—especially if the change lasts for more than a day or you experience additional symptoms like fever, vomiting, or a burning sensation when you pee.
Zandra Palma received her Bachelor’s Degree in Science from Harvard and her medical degree from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. Prior to studying functional medicine, she trained in internal medicine and anesthesiology. She has a special place in her heart (and practice) for environmental medicine, and hopes to use what she’s learned in this area to shift human health on a large scale.