Candidiasis is a common fungal infection that many people suffer from—many without even knowing they have it. Candida infections can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms of Candida infections often resemble symptoms of other conditions. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about Candida testing.
What Is Candida?
Candida is a type of yeast or fungus that lives on and inside the human body. There are many different species of Candida, and some are more likely to affect our health than others. Small amounts of the Candida fungus typically exist on the skin, and inside the mouth, vagina, and gut. In small amounts, Candida are harmless and cause no symptoms. In fact, they may even play a necessary role in our body’s microbiome (the community of trillions of microorganisms that live on and inside the body, and that help to regulate our health and immunity).
What Is Candida Overgrowth?
Our body’s immune system, as well as the community of bacteria in the body, typically keep Candida populations under control. However, certain dietary and lifestyle factors may inhibit these natural defenses and may feed the Candida yeast, causing it to grow uncontrollably.
When Candida has grown out of control, it is known as candidiasis, or a Candida infection. Usually a Candida infection affects the mouth, throat, vagina, and gut, but if not treated, or if the population grows significantly out of control, it can lead to a more serious health condition called Invasive candidiasis which can affect the blood, heart, brain, eyes, bones, and other parts of the body.
How Do You Test for Candida?
There are several different ways to test for Candida. According to the CDC: “The most common way that healthcare providers test for invasive candidiasis is by taking a blood sample or sample from the infected body site and sending it to a laboratory to see if it will grow Candida in a culture.”
Typical scientific lab tests that a doctor may provide for testing are:
- Culture Test: A culture test is typically done for skin infections and genital yeast infections. For this test, a small skin sample is cultured and incubated and looks for the presence of yeast under a microscope. If there are elevated traces of yeast then it can help your doctor determine if the skin is infected with Candida.
- Blood Test: During a blood test, your doctor will take a blood sample to test for specific antibodies related to Candida overgrowth. If there are many of these antibodies present, it indicates that there is a great likelihood of having a Candida infection.
- Stool Test: A stool sample is a less common Candida test. In a Candida stool sample test, your doctor will collect up to three different stool samples from you and send them to a lab to be observed under a microscope for traceable levels of yeast and other bacteria.
- Urine Test: Another lab test that your doctor may perform is a urine sample. In a urine sample test, your doctor collects a sample of your urine and sends it to a lab to be tested for D-Arabinitol, which is a waste product of Candida yeast. If high levels of D-Arabinitol are present in your urine then it indicates there is a Candida overgrowth.
Some healthcare providers also choose to have their patients take a detailed questionnaire to analyze for multiple Candida infection symptoms.
If you have esophageal candidiasis (a Candida infection in the esophagus) then your doctor might recommend an endoscopy. An endoscopy is a procedure in which a light and a camera on a tube is sent down your esophagus to visually examine your digestive tract.
In some cases, your doctor may collect a sample of your tissue for a biopsy. In this case, your doctor will send the tissue to a lab to determine if Candida or another pathogen are causing your symptoms.
At Home Candida Tests
There are limited ways to test for Candida at home. Candida home tests are less accurate than lab tests. As you may have noticed, the majority of tests for Candida involve observing samples underneath a microscope—and even these tests are not always accurate.
The best ways to determine if you have an infection at home are to notice if you have multiple of the symptoms of Candida infection, such as:
- Intense sugar cravings (especially at night)
- Intense cravings for processed carbs like bread and pasta (especially at night)
- Unexplained tiredness and fatigue
- Brain fog or impaired memory
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sinus infections
- Digestive issues
- Joint pain and inflammation
- Skin rashes or infections
- Nail infections
- Vaginal yeast infections
- Canker sores
- Anxiety and depression
- New food sensitivities or intolerances
- Low libido
- Flu-like symptoms
All of these can be caused by an overgrowth of Candida. If you have one or multiple of these symptoms Candida could be the cause. While checking to see if you have these symptoms can help you determine if you have a Candida infection, it is still recommended to consult with your doctor to confirm you have an infection if you are concerned.
The other method for at home Candida testing is to do a Candida spit test.
What Is a Candida Spit Test?
The Candida spit test—also known as the Candida saliva test, candidiasis spit test, yeast spit test, or simply spit test—is a Candida saliva test that can be done at home and is intended to help you discover if you have a yeast overgrowth caused by the fungus Candida albicans. It involves spitting into a glass of water and checking for specific signs of Candida overgrowth. This method of a do it yourself Candida spit test has grown in popularity, but most health experts challenge the Candida spit test’s accuracy and do not consider it to be an effective method of testing for Candida overgrowth.
How to Do a Candida Spit Test
To do the Candida spit test:
- Upon waking up in the morning, before drinking, eating, brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth, spit into a clear glass of water at room temperature.
- Observe the glass every 10-20 minutes for the following hour and look for the specific signs mentioned below.
If you see any of the following signs, you have a positive Candida spit test, which, according to the Candida spit test, means you may have Candida overgrowth:
- Clouds forming in the water.
- Strings coming down from the saliva into the water.
- The saliva sinking down to the bottom of the glass.
Accuracy of the Candida Spit Test
There is a lot of controversy over whether the Candida spit test is accurate or not. The majority of health experts consider the Candida spit test to be inaccurate and ineffective for testing for Candida, and even say that the difference in saliva has nothing at all to do with Candida.
The belief behind the Candida spit test comes from the idea that healthy saliva should float on the top of the glass, not having any strings or clouds, or sinking to the bottom of the glass. Typically, this method is not trusted when it comes to diagnosing a Candida infection, and most doctors prefer to take an entirely different approach of testing altogether.
Other Indications of Saliva Testing
While the Candida saliva test is generally seen as unreliable, the test may be able to reveal other underlying conditions. If you try the test and notice that you have any of the signs mentioned above, it may indicate food allergies, excess mucus production or dehydration. You can then look further into your diet, make some changes, redo the test and see if there are any improvements. Be aware, however, that these are also not accurate or reliable indicators, even though they may offer some support in diagnosing a condition.
Lab Testing of Saliva for Candida
While the controversial Candida spit test may not be beneficial, a Candida saliva test done in the lab may actually be beneficial for diagnosing a Candida infection in the mouth (oral candidiasis, oral thrush). In this saliva test, saliva samples are collected, cultured for candida species and then further analyzed in the lab.
More Reliable Tests for Candida
Most healthcare professionals prefer to rely on other tests to diagnose Candida. There are multiple factors to test for Candida overgrowth and yeast infection issues, such as:
- Checking for signs and symptoms of Candida overgrowth or yeast infection
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Laboratory tests such as candida stool test, saliva test, blood test, urine test, Candida antibodies test, skin test, vaginal discharge test, and others.
Candida can be hard to diagnose. Laboratory tests are not always enough to identify the Candida overgrowth or its severity. Since Candida make up a part of the body’s natural microflora, it makes it even more difficult to determine whether the presence of Candida is an indication of infection or overgrowth. However, if a patient has multiple Candida overgrowth and yeast infection symptoms along with certain risks factors, it is usually a good indication to start the treatment for Candida overgrowth.