Ama, according to Ayurveda, is the root of all disease. It is partially-digested ‘uncooked’ food that circulates around our bodies, gunks up our systems and causes us to get sick. Plaque-like, it sticks to our organs, and prevents their normal functioning. It clogs up the pathways to our cells and encourages the build up of toxins. Our bodies become slowly poisoned.
Ama often accumulates in the weakest point of our bodies. For Pittas that means the blood (causing acne and rashes); Vatas, the joints (causing cracking joints); Kaphas, the fat (causing weight gain). Often Vatas and Kaphas have more ama than Pittas, due to their low agni. If ama is left to accumulate too long without being eliminated from the body, serious disease can follow.
What does ama look like? It’s a sticky, white, thick mucous. It is related to kapha.
How do you know if you have ama in your body?
You will have:
- a heavy groggy feeling in the morning, upon rising
- a coated tongue, sour taste in mouth on rising (tongue should be scraped with the back of a spoon)
- stiffness in joints (I’ve often had ‘unexplained’ stiff ankles in the morning – this explains it), vague aches and pains
- feeling of dullness, ‘foggy’ mind, depression (ama can accumulate in our brains too, creating ‘toxic’ emotions)
- bloated feeling, gas, wind
- constipation (it is normal to have 1 or 2 large bowel movements in a day!), diarrhea
- frequents coughs and colds, low immunity
What causes ama?
Ama is primarily due to low agni, food that just isn’t being digested properly.
This can be due to:
- improper eating habits (eating too quickly, eating too late at night, eating when upset)
- by eating junk food (sugar, white flour etc), over-processed food, leftovers (too much bacteria), tinned food, cold food and drinks, meat, hard cheese
- cigarettes, caffeine, alcohol, prescription and non-prescription drugs
- imbalanced doshas
- environmental toxins (pesticides, fertilisers, artificial flavouring, cleaning chemicals, asbestos, lead)
- a stressful lifestyle
- age (the body’s self-cleansing systems start to become less efficient)
How do we reduce ama?
Firstly, we need to avoid creating ama in the first place, by safeguarding our agni, and ensuring our digestion is effective. We should generally stay away from ama-causing foods and favour warm, moist, light foods (such as soups and kitchiree). Fresh organic fruits and vegies (especially green leafy ones) are good, as are light grains such as barley. We should make sure we eat our main meal at noon. Keep regular eating times and don’t snack in between, if possible. Gentle exercise helps our bodies get rid of toxins by encouraging bowel movement and sweating. Keeping our dosha/s in balance is also important.
If you only have small amounts of ama, or can’t go to an Ayurvedic doctor, lots of rest and relaxation is important. Drink Ama Pachana tea (or even warm water) throughout the day to melt away ama and stoke agni. Tulsi, or Holy Basil, helps eliminate ama. Other specific herbs and spices help with excess ama, according to the imbalanced dosha:
Anti-Vata: ginger, nutmeg, garlic, asofoetida, cumin, black pepper, fennel
Anti-Pitta: aloe vera, fennel, coriander, neem
Anti-Kapha: ginger, cumin, black pepper
The Ayurvedic rasayana, Triphala, is also supposed to be good at getting agni working again and getting rid of ama.
If you have lots of ama, the most effective way to get of it, is a complete detox, Panchakarma, under the supervision of an Ayurvedic practitioner. The best time to do this is when the seasons change. Spring is an ideal time to detoxify our bodies. All ancient cultures knew that. Our bodies often mirror nature, so, as snow melts, so do the toxins from our bodily tissues, with the coming of the sun. This is why we get hay fever and colds – our bodies are trying to rid themselves of ama.
Most people wait until they get sick to start looking after themselves. If you keep an eye out for ama, and take action to rid your body of it, you won’t have to get sick in the first place!