Ama is what we refer to as “toxins.” What is it really? : the result of undigested, under-digested or unprocessed food/chemicals in the body. Ama can clog the channels of circulation that nourish the body resulting in restricted tissue nourishment, or it may block channels that remove waste products, causing a toxic build up.
How do we get ama?
Ama can be the result of many factors:
- The main cause of Ama is reduced or insufficient agni (digestive power). When agni is weak, instead of converting food into “Ahara” (“essence of food” - this what body uses for nourishment) it converts food into Ama
- Eating at the wrong time of day; eating too much; eating too fast (or slow); eating before your previous meal has completely digested; eating foods less compatible with your vikruti; poor digestive fire (agni);
- Eating an over-abundance of ama-producing foods
What are the signs that I have too much ama?
Ayurveda recommends that most of us need at least a small cleanse every quarter. No matter how healthy your lifestyle, because we live in a fast-paced environment where stress, pollution, and processed foods are ever present, ama naturally builds up in everyone. When ama is not completely cleared from the body, it begins to build up, leaves the digestive tract and circulates throughout the body causing havok. There it is able to mix with the dhatus (body tissues), malas (natural waste products such as sweat, mucous), and subdoshas. Symptoms of excess ama are:
- Foggy mind
- Heaviness in the digestive tract
- Stiff joints
- Unpleasant body odor, breath
- Diarrhea, constipation
- Frequent bouts of illness
How to get rid of Ama
This depends on the person and their current state of health. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach whenever you treat with Ayurveda methods. Here are some of the methods we use to naturally decrease Ama, depending on the circumstances
- Avoid causes (as listed above)
- Liberate and digest existing ama through Ama Pachana. This can be as simple as sipping hot water throughout the day, fasting, or may include using digestive herbs and spices
- Improve agni (digestive power). This is known as Agni Dipan, or kindling the digestive fire through light diet. This may consist of a strict regimen beginning with liquid meals, progressing gradually to semi-liquid meals, then to thicker soups and gradually to more solid food over a period of time (aka Langhana, described below). A liquid diet once a week, particularly if overweight or more Kapha, is very helpful. The use of specific spices in the food, and herbal preparations taken at specific times of the meals and during the day, is helpful. Again, this is judged according to the agni of the individual and their nature.
- Langanga - this means fasting. In Ayurveda “fasting” varies from person to person in the length and type of treatment. Fasting includes:
- No food
- Liquid food
- Soft food
- Easy to digest food
You may be advised to employ all of these methods or only 1 or two. The length of the fast will also vary.
- Herbal Detox - eliminating ama with herbal supplements
- Lekhana - cleansing the digestive tract with hot water and/or herbs that create “scraping” effect
- Swedena - sweat therapy
Ama Reducing Diet & Lifestyle
- Warm, cooked whole foods
- Organic foods
- Fresh, not left over meals
- Drink warm water throughout the day (ice and cold foods decrease agni)
- Avoid fried, heavy foods (red meat, cheese, heavy dairy)
- Junk food, processed food
- Drink herbal tea (cumin, coriander, fennel) - all natural detoxifiers and ama digesters
- Fruits: cooked prunes, figs, apples, pears, pineapple and papaya.
- Vegetables: cooked leafy greens, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
- Grains: quinoa, barley, amaranth, rice and kanji (rice water).
- Spices: ginger, turmeric, coriander, fennel, cumin, asofoetida, and fenugreek. These spices help open up the channels and support the flow of toxins from the skin, urinary tract, colon and liver.
- Herbal detox blend: haritaki, long pepper, rock salt, dry ginger, amla, turmeric, vidanga - mix equal amounts of each herb; take ½ -1 tsp upon waking and after meals
- Go to bed by 10pm and wake before sunrise
- Get regular - but not too much - exercise
- Don’t snack between meals. If you are hungry, make sure the prior meal is completely digested
- Eat at regular times every day
- Do not eat after 7pm
Keeping your body cleansed and free of toxins is a matter of following the ayurvedic diet and routine suitable for your body type and imbalances throughout the year, and following an ama-reducing diet routine (especially in spring and changes of seasons or any time that your feel a toxic build-up). In this way you can take care of these three areas of the body — strengthening the digestion, cleansing the liver, and cleansing the bowel. If you do this, over time you will find that fewer and fewer toxins build up in your body, and you will enjoy the energy, clarity and lightness of a toxin-free body, mind and emotions.