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Urobilinogen

Updated: Mar 27

What is Urobilinogen?

Urobilinogen is a substance formed when the liver breaks down bilirubin (see article on bilirubin), a yellow pigment produced during the normal breakdown of red blood cells. It is then excreted in urine and feces.



How can the levels be affected?

Urobilinogen levels in the urine can be influenced by the following factors:

  1. Exercise-induced haemolysis: During intense or prolonged exercise, particularly endurance sports or high-impact activities, red blood cells can rupture at an increased rate. The physical stress (repeated muscular contractions, shocks or vibrations to the body, equipment ill-suited to physical activity, running on hard ground, etc.) imposed on the body during exercise can induce this phenomenon known as "exercise-induced haemolysis". When red blood cells break down, they release bilirubin into the blood, which is then broken down into urobilinogen and excreted in urine.

  2. Physical impact and muscle contractions: Sports activities involving repetitive or sudden movements can also contribute to haemolysis. Also, muscle breakdown can release myoglobin (a protein present in muscle tissue) into the bloodstream, leading to the production of bilirubin and then urobilinogen as it breaks down.

  3. Extreme temperatures: When you are exposed to excessive heat, your body can undergo additional stress, which can increase the breakdown of red blood cells (haemolysis). Increased haemolysis can lead to an increased release of bilirubin into the blood, which is broken down by the liver into urobilinogen and excreted in urine. Very cold temperatures can also affect these levels, particularly when vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) occurs in certain parts of the body to increase blood pressure and reduce body heat loss.

  4. Dehydration: Insufficient hydration during exercise can concentrate urine and increase urobilinogen levels. Dehydration can also increase the risk of haemolysis.

  5. Exercise-related liver stimulation: Exercise can stimulate organs such as the liver, thereby inducing the breakdown of bilirubin into urobilinogen. This activity can lead to higher levels of urobilinogen in urine.

  6. Impact on the gastrointestinal tract: exercise can also affect gastrointestinal motility and transit time. Changes in gastrointestinal function can influence the absorption and production of bilirubin and urobilinogen, which can affect their levels in urine.

  7. Muscle damage: Intense physical activity can cause muscle damage, resulting in the release of myoglobin, a protein found in muscle tissue, into the bloodstream. The breakdown products of myoglobin can be excreted by the liver and contribute to the production of urobilinogen.

  8. Diet and nutrition: Certain dietary factors such as alcohol, drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), supplements and nutritional habits can increase the risk of haemolysis and influence liver activity, affecting the production and excretion of urobilinogen in urine.


Overall, although urobilinogen levels in urine can be influenced by physical activity, dehydration, liver activity and other factors such as diet, it is essential to consider the individual context and circumstances. Although urobilinogen is closely related to bilirubin, it is important to note that urobilinogen levels can be elevated without bilirubin levels being elevated: this is due to the breakdown of bilirubin (lower levels) into urobilinogen (higher levels).


How can I maintain an optimal rate?

To help maintain optimal levels of urobilinogen in your urine, consider the following strategies:

  • Stay well hydrated: Make sure you stay well hydrated before, during and after training.

  • Proper warm-up and cool-down: Performing a proper warm-up before training to prepare your body for physical activity helps reduce muscle breakdown. After training, allow yourself enough time to recover, which can help reduce stress on the body and maintain optimal urobilinogen levels in urine.

  • Progressive training: Adopt a progressive approach to your training programme to allow your body to adapt gradually to physical activity, in terms of the intensity, duration and frequency of training sessions, as well as training conditions (cold or intense heat).

  • Avoid extreme environmental conditions: Take care when exercising in extreme temperatures, as heat or cold stress, combined with dehydration, can increase the risk of haemolysis. Stay hydrated and take breaks if necessary to avoid overheating or overexerting your body.

  • Use of appropriate equipment: Use appropriate equipment for your sport or activity that reduces impact, shock or vibration on the body, and thus avoids premature damage to red blood cells. This can help reduce the risk of serious injury in the event of a fall or collision.

  • Balanced diet: A balanced diet rich in antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and essential minerals helps to prevent urobilinogen levels in the body. The following foods can be incorporated:

Green Leafy Vegetables (fibres)

Agrums (vitamins and minerals)

 Berries (antioxidants)

Seeds and Nuts (fibres and vitamins)

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Arugula

  • Swiss chard

  • Mustard greens

  • Turnip greens

  • Collard greens

  • ...

  • Oranges

  • Mandarins

  • Grapefruits

  • Lemons

  • Limes

  • ...

  • Strawberries

  • Blueberries

  • Raspberries

  • Blackberries

  • Goji berries

  • Açaí berries

  • ...

 

  • Walnuts (Noix de Grenoble)

  • Almonds

  • Cashews

  • Hazelnuts

  • Chia seeds

  • Flax seeds

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • ...

 

  • Be careful when using medicines: Use medications responsibly and as directed by your healthcare provider. Avoid unnecessary use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and aspirin, as they can potentially contribute to haemolysis.


After intense physical activity, it is normal to find levels of urobilinogen in the body, mainly due to muscle breakdown and exercise haemolysis. Combining several of the above techniques will enable you to reduce these levels in the days that follow and help with physical preparation and recovery.

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