So what is fulvic acid?
Fulvic acid is a complex organic molecule that is a member of the humic acid group. It is the smallest member of the humic acid group, which is one of the reasons that it’s the most biologically active, its size meaning that it can easily pass-through cell membranes carrying nutrients into the cell. They are naturally occurring in soils, and they transform inorganic mineral rocks and metals into the activated, organic, and water-soluble forms. I.e., the only form that plants and humans can use. So, you could say that they are essential to life. Fulvic is nature's very own nutrient activation and delivery system.
You might be asking then, if it's naturally occurring then why do I need to supplement it? Well, our crops contain 80% less fulvic acid (amongst other things) today than they did 100 years ago. This degradation is a result of chronically over-using fertilisers and pesticides on crops, destroying the microorganisms present. Even organic farming methods deplete fulvic acid because it’s used faster than it can be replaced naturally.
Deficiencies in fulvic acid create a deficiency in naturally occurring vitamins and minerals which our body uses to neutralise acids helping maintain a healthy pH in our cells and tissues. Normal cellular processes produce acids as end-products, added to our highly acidic diets, emotional states such as stress and anxiety, and we have an acidic environment.
In the acidic and inflammatory environment that this creates, we can eventually become prone to many different diseases. In fact, there are 157 degenerative diseases linked to the vitamin and mineral deficiencies associated with chronic acidity and systemic inflammation.
What has this got to do with you? Well, fulvic acid makes up 15-20% of the total volume of shilajit, and it is believed to be responsible for many of the medicinal properties of shilajit.
So, let’s see what they are.
1. Removal of Toxins from the Body
Our bodies have amazing natural detoxification abilities, and when functioning at optimal health, can effectively remove everything from normal biological waste by-products to environmental toxins such as glyphosate and heavy metals. Unfortunately, our exposure to these toxins — in combination with various other health challenges — can cause our detoxification pathways to become compromised and bogged down.
However, constant exposure to these toxins – combined with other health challenges – overwhelm your ‘detoxification’ pathways causing an ever-increasing backlog of toxins to be dealt with. What’s more, you will begin to store the toxins in your body fat (this fat attempts to protect our organs). The toxins can stay in your stored fat for years. The result of this, we can legitimately call ‘suboptimal health’.
So where does fulvic acid come into this?
Fulvic acid is one of the smallest molecules found in nature. Its small structure, electric charge and pH mean that it attracts free radicals, heavy metals and other toxins in the body, kind of like a cleaner. Once the fulvic acid becomes reactive with the heavy meals, by a complicated process involving subatomic particles and charges, they become more water soluble, meaning that they can leave your cell, and ultimately your body more easily.
Because of its unbound nature – i.e., it has no vitamins, minerals, or trace elements attached to it – it becomes the ideal transporter for things getting in and out of the cell for them to eventually be removed from the body in urine or stool.
2. Absorption of Nutrients and their Delivery to Cells
Dr Linus Pauling once said.
‘You can trace every sickness, every disease, and every ailment, ultimately to a mineral deficiency’.
Fulvic acid has the capability of attracting and binding to electrolytes, minerals, vitamins, and probiotics amongst other things. It is also thought to increase the activity of digestive enzymes such as lysozymes which protect against microbes in food and various proteases that are responsible for breaking down the protein in your diet into usable amino acids.
This all aids in the restoration of a healthy microbiome, which if you’re suffering from constipation, diarrhoea, or bloating – that might be why.
That is only stage one though. Once your body has absorbed the nutrients it needs, they need transporting to the cells and tissues that require them.Yet again, this is where fulvic acid comes in. The process of transporting minerals around the body and delivering them to cells is optimised by fulvic acid.
Part of the reason for this is the physical size of the fulvic acid molecule coupled with its ability to optimise pH within your body mean that nutrients can get into cells by passing directly through the cell wall.
3. Increases Energy and Reduces Fatigue
How is it possible that my energy levels are so spiked when I’m only using only a rice-grains worth of shilajit per serving? The answer to this question is to be found in the mitochondria, the so-called powerhouse of the cell. Energy is stored as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and released when it’s broken down to adenosine diphosphate (ADP). For this process to work, the mitochondria need oxygen and many other micronutrients.
One study hypothesises that fulvic acid could mitigate the effects of fatigue by preserving the function of mitochondria. It has been shown to deliver more of the key nutrients to the mitochondria and increases the uptake of oxygen. Fulvic acid is also thought to help keep electrolytes in a healthy balance, by increasing the flow of electrons that the mitochondria can use.
What does this mean for you?
It means that your newly improved and more efficient mitochondria can release more energy at a steadier rate throughout the day, so that means no more post-lunch slump.
4. Improve Cognitive Function
There is emerging research suggesting that fulvic acid could have nootropic properties.
A nootropic is a substance which makes you super smart. No, I’m joking. But nootropics are substances that are said to improve working memory and one’s ability to learn and retain information.
When we talk about age-related cognitive diseases, we mean the ‘A’ word, amongst other things. One of the defining features of Alzheimer’s is a decline in working memory, and a diminished ability to retain information. One study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011 concluded that fulvic acid has a range of antioxidant properties, these antioxidants could have the potential to slow the ongoing march of the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s.
The underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease is the blocking of neurons from making new connections. As you can imagine, this eventually leads to memory loss, dementia, confusion, and other debilitating symptoms. An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is multifactorial. A doctor will look for plaques on the brain which tell them that there has been a malfunction which has caused an entanglement of neurons (also known as protein aggregation).
Protein aggregation is what leads to the inability for the brain to form new connections, which leads to the gradual cognitive degeneration experienced by those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Fulvic acid was shown to help untangle these neurofibrillary tangles, shortening their length.
This is a promising sign that fulvic acid may aid in the prevention, amelioration or at least the slowing of symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
If potentially improving your cognition, your working memory and maybe even adding a few IQ points to your score, then fulvic acid might be a welcome addition to your supplementation routine.
5. Improves Gut Health
Your gut lining is only one cell thick, and if the “tight junctions” connecting them are ruptured, undigested material in the gut can leak into your blood stream. That will set off alarms in the immune system which then mobilises to attack, subdue, and remove these invasive “foreign” particles.
This response is an autoimmune one, which in certain circumstances – including this one – are normal and healthy. The abnormal part of this is that you shouldn’t have undigested bits of food making its way around your body. This means you will have sugars, amino acids, and fatty acids in places they shouldn’t be!
One hypothesis for this, and I believe it’s a good one, is that it is a result of the “western diet” and our over consumption of processed sugar and underconsumption of fibre.
Another hypothesis, which is linked to the first, is that its pollution in the food and water. Pollutants such as the ubiquitous pesticide glyphosate, which has been proven to break down the intestinal lining cell’s “tight junctions” is also shown to break the “tight communications” which are also a part of the gut cell net that allows the cells to communicate.
Fulvic acid encourages the repair of the gut’s tight junctions and tight communications, helping the gut to heal and aid in improving your health.
Anything that helps the gut heal will contribute to a feeling of well-being, because a leaky gut can make you feel the effects of inflammation, digestive problems, depression, irritation, skin eruptions, brain fog, lethargy, and all sorts of other symptoms.
You may have noticed that there is some overlap between the sections. Specifically, the gut seems to be central to overall health. You’ll know this if you have ever taken a course of antibiotics and just felt flat afterwards. It suggests to me that the body works as one complete unit; nothing happens in isolation. This means that we need to treat it holistically.
In the west, we have broken everything down to its smallest constituent part and looked for answers there.
At CERN they have even tried looking for the answers to the universe by smashing together subatomic particles at eye-watering speeds whilst pharmaceutical companies have taken plants that have been known to have medicinal uses for centuries and have isolated the “active” ingredients to be packaged up as treatments for many different ailments.
But this merely separates the elements, which all work together synergistically to produce an effect, whatever that might be.
And this is where shilajit comes in.