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Understanding foamy or milky urine
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Understanding foamy or milky urine

Persistent foamy urine can be a warning sign for complications in kidney functions. Seeking timely medical advice can contribute to the well-being say experts

The usual color of the urine is light yellow which can turn milky yellow or turbid (cloudy) due to various reasons such as — higher alkalinity, dehydration, infection, vaginal discharge, and food habits. Experts highlight that while occasional frothiness may be harmless, whereas, persistent foamy urine can be considered a warning sign for complications in kidney function. Sometimes, taking proactive measures and seeking timely medical advice can contribute to the long-term well-being of your urinary system.

Foamy or milky urine and its serious indication of health conditions is often ignored. A critical review published in the Chonnam Medical Journal (2012) reveals the reason for inadequate studies on foamy urine. It says there isn’t a widely accepted clinical definition for this condition. Trying to define foamy urine solely based on personal observations is extremely challenging. The symptoms could be used as a starting point for understanding what leads to foamy urine.

Common causes and health implications of foamy urine

Higher alkali in the urine: “One of the most common causes is the presence of higher alkali in the urine. The normal pH level of urine should be between 4.5 to 8,” says, Dr Pradeepta Kumar Sethy, Director of Gastroenterology, Medica Superspeciality Hospital, Kolkata. “The imbalance of the components of urine (salt, water and kidney waste) affects the pH levels of urine, making it either acidic (under 5 pH) or alkaline (8 or above pH),” he added.

Elevated levels of proteins: “Elevated blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to loss of proteins in urine. The presence of proteins is associated with cloudy urine, and in such cases, thorough investigations and appropriate treatments are necessary,” says Dr Ajay S Shetty, lead consultant, urology renal transplantation and robotics surgeon, Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore.

According to a recent study published in Pediatric Nephrology (2024), often foamy urine is associated with proteinuria, a condition characterized by the presence of proteins in urine which serves as a key indicator for various kidney issues.

The foaming is due to the soap-like effect of albumin protein. Foamy urine is commonly considered as an early indication of renal disease, emphasizing the need for thorough evaluation in patients displaying this symptom, says the study. 

Food choices: “Cloudy or frothy urine can result from specific dietary choices and habits,” says Dr Sethy. “These include a diet that is heavy in fruits and vegetables while minimizing or excluding grains, pulses and meat. Salty foods like chips and salted popcorn can disrupt the body’s fluid balance. Foods high in phosphorus, such as milk or dairy products, and those rich in purines, like shellfish and sardines, are also some of the contributors. Additionally, an increased intake of sugar can also lead to cloudy urine,” he added.

Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption can harm the kidneys and lead to dehydration.

Other health conditions:  Dr Sethy says, “Certain health conditions leading to cloudy urine are diabetes, urinary tract infections (UTI), high blood pressure during pregnancy or preeclampsia (hypertension occurring during pregnancy), kidney diseases like kidney stones and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like vaginitis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.”

How to get rid of foamy urine

“Lifestyle changes go a long way when it comes to managing chronic (persisting or recurring) urological problems,” emphasizes Dr Shetty. Here are some tips to overcome frothy or turbid urine.

Stay hydrated: Adequate hydration is fundamental to maintain urine consistency. Drink enough water throughout the day to prevent urine from becoming concentrated and frothy. For women, it is advisable to empty the bladder frequently to prevent from having vaginal infections. 

Balanced diet: Adapting a balanced diet that includes a moderate amount of protein can help prevent excessive protein in urine. Increase the intake of vitamin C as it balances the alkaline levels in urine.

Regular exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity supports overall health ensuring kidney function. Exercising helps regulate blood pressure and promotes efficient blood circulation, benefiting the kidneys and urinary system.

Promptly address UTIs: If you experience symptoms of UTI such as a burning feeling, pain while passing urine, change in urine color, or see blood in urine, seek medical help immediately. Early detection and treatment can prevent complications.

Regular check-ups: Medical check-ups including urine routine and ultrasound can aid in the early detection of issues leading to foamy or turbid urine. Kidney function tests can provide insights into the health of your urinary system.

Takeaways

  • Occasional frothiness in urine can be attributed to factors like higher pH, dehydration, infection, vaginal discharge and food habits.
  • Severe and persistent frothy urine requires attention, as it could be an indication of underlying health conditions such as kidney dysfunction or urinary tract infections.
  • Keeping hydrated, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet can help promote the health of your urinary system.

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