Fulvic acid is one of two classes of humic acidic, organic compounds found in the earth’s soils, rock sediments and bodies of water. Over the past several decades, we’ve learned a lot more about how humic substances found in dirt, including fulvic acid, can actually improve human gut health and therefore immune functions. While people used to obtain higher amounts of humic acids naturally from the soil, today they often turn to food-grade supplements to boost their nutrient intake and improve gut health.
Fulvic acid is found in nature as a product of microbial metabolism processes, which means it’s produced when organic plant matter decomposes and millions of beneficial healthy bacteria are released. That’s why fulvic acid is able to do the following:
1. Improves Gut Health and Immune Function
Fulvic acid and other humic acids contain a plethora of nutrients that improve gut health, including: trace minerals, electrolytes, fatty acids, silica (which boosts collagen synthesis), prebiotics and probiotics. These help nourish the digestive tract and also boost the ability of “good bacteria” to repopulate and form a healthy “microbiome” environment. We need a strong digestive system to build immunity, help control hormone production, regulate our appetite, reduce our stress response and much more.
For hundreds of years, an ancient remedy known as shilajit, which contains roughly 50 percent to 60 percent fulvic acid, has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat a wide scope of health benefits that can be traced back to poor digestive/immune health. A poorly working gut is where many chronic health conditions take shape, which is why leaky gut syndrome is so harmful. (2)
As a result of gut permeability (when particles are able to escape through the gut lining and enter the bloodstream where they shouldn’t normally be), inflammation is triggered and autoimmune reactions can occur. There is some evidence that consuming fulvic acid can help decrease digestive disorders and other issues, including: SIBO symptoms (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), inflammatory bowel disorders, bacterial infections (respiratory, urinary tract, etc.), or the flu and common colds, for example.
2. Helps Boost Digestion and Nutrient Absorption
Acquiring enough electrolytes and other trace minerals is important for proper metabolic functions, digestive health and nutrient assimilation. Organisms we obtain from fulvic acid can be taken in small doses and still cause fast, significant improvements in the ratio of bacteria living in the gut, helping lower many unwanted digestive symptoms like constipation, bloating, diarrhea and food sensitivities.
Besides providing raw nutrients, fulvic acid transports minerals and other nutrients to cells more effectively, boosts absorption rate of nutrients by making cells more permeable, and fights inflammation within the digestive organs. (3)
Another benefit of taking fulvic acid as a supplement is that it helps restore the body’s optimal pH level. By alkalizing the body and preventing an overly acidic environment from forming, humic acids might be able to help prevent long-term illnesses from developing and improve defense against harmful bacteria, fungus, yeast and other organisms.
3. Protects Cognitive Health
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that fulvic acid has several antioxidant, nutraceutical properties with potential activity to protect cognitive impairments, including Alzheimer’s disease. (4) A contributing factor to the development of cognitive disorders is free radical damage and also a type of protein called tau, but studies show that fulvic acid helps lower the length of tau fibrils and their morphology, disassembling their performance and stopping disease progression. The researchers concluded that fulvic acid is likely to provide new insights in the development of potential natural treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Improves Detoxification
Humic acids are beneficial for digestion and improving energy because of their detoxifying abilities. As a form of natural chelation therapy, humic acids are capable of binding to and breaking down toxins and metals that enter the body through the food supply, water, prescription medications, household products and air pollution.
Within the environment, fulciv acid is found in not only soil and rock, but also streams, lakes and ocean water. Humic acids form complexes with ions that are commonly found in the environment, creating tight humic colloids binds that help with water filtering, agriculture processes and detoxification The presence of carboxylate and phenolates within humic acids gives them the ability to act like natural chelators, which means they form chemical complexes that are important for regulating bioavailability of metal ions like iron, calcium, magnesium and copper within the human body and environment.
Studies have found that humic acids have ion-selective electrodes that can be used for attracting heavy metals — even for filtering soils and water because they help bind to things like copper and iron. Research shows they’re even effective at geochemical processing of soils and aquatic environments at much lower concentrations than other types of chemicals. (5)+
5. Lowers Free Radical Damage and Inflammation
Free radicals are present inside of all us, since they have roles for fighting pathogens, supplying energy and regulating hormones, but too many speeds up the aging process and results in disease formation. The combination of our exposure to environmental pollutants, low nutrient intake, and harmful activities like smoking, too much UV light exposure and eating processed foods has created a big problem in regard to raising free radical damage.
Fulvic acid contains antioxidants that counter the effects of free radicals and also help detoxify the body of many toxins that contribute to the problem: chemicals used in agriculture, radioactive waste and heavy metals, for example. It also helps extend the permeability and life of cells by providing electrolytes that have numerous functions within the heart, muscles, brain and digestive tract. (6)
6. Improves Energy Levels and Lowers Pain
Many people taking fulvic acid have reported improvements in energy levels, probably due to increased detoxification, lower levels of inflammation and free radical damage, and higher intakes of electrolytes and other key nutrients.
According to research done by Doctors Across Borders, studies have found that as natural and organic electrolytes, humic acids activate and energize nearly every biological process in the body. An electrolyte is soluble in water and works by conducting electrical currents, helping cells survive in the face of damage caused by things like emotional stress, uncontrolled infections, unbalanced diet, prolonged loss of sleep and surgical shocks. (7)
This also makes fulvic acid useful for lowering chronic nerve pain, headaches, joint pain caused by arthritis, or bone and muscle pains associated with aging. There’s some evidence that fulvic acid’s electrolytes can help reduce swelling, decrease inflammation, soothe and relax muscles, and improve circulation. Conversely, an electrolyte imbalance can cause these symptoms to worsen.
7. Repairs and Protects the Skin
Some evidence suggests that humic acids can help protect the skin and treat wounds or irritations caused by things like eczema, bug bites, scrapes and rashes associated with fungus/microbes. A study published in the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigative Dermatology found that fulvic acid supplementation significantly improved symptoms associated with eczema, even compared to other other eczema treatments. (8)
Historically, fulvic acid has been used as a rash remedy to help treat poison ivy, poison oak, viral infections, spider bites and athlete’s foot. While this benefit is based more on anecedotal evidence than clinical studies, it makes sense considering fulvic acid improves circulation and immunity while lowering pain and susceptibility to infections.
How Fulvic Acid Works
As a supplement made for human consumption, fulvic acid can be found in liquid form and also as a solid, mineral substance. Something unique about fulvic acid compared to other organisms found within soil is that it’s able to easily pass through cellular membranes, allowing it to be properly absorbed and also boosting assimilation of other nutrients or supplements. (9) In fact, it has benefits for plants, soil fertilization and water/agriculture supplementation for the same reason — it improves plants’ ability to grow due to how it increases permeability of plant membranes that absorb nutrients from the ground.
Its structure is made up of aromatic, organic polymers with many carboxyl groups that release hydrogen ions, resulting in an electric charge that helps attract free radicals, heavy metals and other toxins within the body, allowing it to act like a detoxification agent. Once it becomes reactive with metals, fulvic acid helps them become more soluble in water, which means they’re carried out of the body more easily.
As a major source of key electrolytes and antioxidants, fulvic acid helps slow down aging and control inflammation. It’s been shown to improve various cellular processes, muscle functions, digestive abilities, heart and brain health. Fulvic acid helps cells absorb the amount of minerals they need and discard of waste by acting as an ion transporter. It also stimulate the immune system to help defend the body from things like viruses and infections. (10)
Fulvic Acid vs. Folic Acid: Are They Similar?
Folic acid and fulvic acid might sound similar, but they’re actually very different. Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin, which is why they are sometimes called vitamin B9. Folate occurs naturally in folate foods (especially vegetables, whole grains and beans), but folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin that’s added to some foods and supplements.
Most people assume that folate and folic acid are the same thing with similar benefits, but in fact folic acid is not naturally occurring like folate is and not usually capable of producing the same effects. Still, it’s estimated that about 35 percent of adults and 28 percent of all children in the U.S. use supplements containing folic acid, yet it’s been shown to act differently in the body than folate when it comes to helping with cellular functions, nutrient synthesis, liver and kidney health.
While folate is easily and naturally absorbed and utilized in the small intestines, folic acid requires the presence of a specific enzyme named dihydrofolate reductase, which research suggests is relatively rare in the body. Because of this, folic acid can remain in the bloodstream and cause side effects, including changes in sex hormones, cognitive problems like trouble concentrating, inability to sleep, mood changes and deficiencies in certain nutrients like vitamin B12 deficiency. Instead of taking folic acid supplements, you’re better off preventing folate deficiency by eating foods like leafy greens, such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, beef liver, broccoli, peas and beans.