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What is Urobilinogen?

By Dulce Corazon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Urobilinogen is a colorless substance produced from the breakdown of bilirubin. In the intestines, it is converted to stercobilin by normal resident bacteria. Some is also absorbed from the intestines and goes to the kidneys for excretion, and some is converted to urobilin. Urobilin is responsible for giving urine its light yellow color, and stercobilin gives the feces its brownish appearance.

Bilirubin comes from the breakdown of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying component of red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs often stay in the circulation for approximately 120 days, after which they die and break down. Their death precipitates the production of the unconjugated or insoluble form of bilirubin.

Unconjugated bilirubin goes to the liver, where it is converted to its conjugated or soluble form. Conjugated bilirubin becomes a component of bile, a greenish-yellow fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Eating foods rich in fats usually stimulates the gallbladder to release some of the bile to help in the digestion of fats, and it travels from the organ down to the small intestines.

As bile reaches the intestines, the bilirubin present in it will once again undergo conversion with the help of resident bacteria that are normally present there. This conversion will result in the formation of urobilinogen. Some is absorbed by the intestines and goes to the kidneys for excretion. A little is converted to urobilin, which is also excreted in urine. The remaining amount that was not absorbed by the intestines is usually converted to stercobilin and excreted in the feces.

An increased urobilinogen concentration in the urine is mostly indicative of hyperbilirubinemia, which is the presence of excessive amounts of bilirubin in the blood. The condition is sometimes seen in newborn babies, where bilirubin in its insoluble form accumulates in the child’s brain and causes seizures, visual problems, and mental retardation. Hemolytic anemia, which is a condition characterized by abnormal and premature death of red blood cells, also increases levels in the urine.

Other factors that may significantly increase levels of this substance are inflammation of the liver and cirrhosis. Its level in the urine becomes abnormally low when there is an obstruction in the passageway of bile. The use of broad-spectrum antibiotics that could result in the death of resident bacteria in the intestines may also lead to low urobilinogen levels.

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Discussion Comments

By irontoenail — On Sep 15, 2011

@Mor - As it says in the article, if you are using broad spectrum antibiotics you might end up with excess urobilinogen in your blood anyway, so if that's the case I wouldn't worry too much.

And yes, you should try to keep hydrated, but also be aware of your vitamin levels. If you are drinking too much water you can start removing B vitamins and others from your body, as they tend to go out through urine.

It's all about balance, rather than excess, even of water.

That said, if you are really worried, even if you are on antibiotics, you should see your doctor and tell him what's wrong. He can give you a urobilinogen test if needs be, and recommend ways of getting your intestines back to healthy levels of bacteria.

By Mor — On Sep 14, 2011

I didn't know this was what caused the yellow color in urine. I do know that you are supposed to try and drink enough water that your urine is only very pale and has hardly any yellow in it at all.

I guess, though, that the color of it is probably not the best way of showing how much urobilinogen is in there, as I think it's got more to do with how dehydrated you are.

Still, if you noticed anything wrong, you should probably go to the doctor and get your urine tested.

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