Ama – the harmful matter that deteriorates the quality of life
Ama and agni, are the two central concepts at the core of Ayurveda. Agni is the digestive fire that helps break down food into nutrients that get absorbed into the body. In turn, these nutrients help build and maintain healthy tissue. When this fire is not burning properly, food remains undigested. And when that happens, toxins that cannot be assimilated by the body are created. This is Ama: undigested food and emotions that end up forming a sticky, cloudy, foul-smelling, and harmful matter that deteriorates the quality of life.
That is to say, ama is a metabolic toxin that builds up in our body and creates a base pool where disease then forms. Needless to say, the presence of these toxins in our bodies greatly deteriorates our quality of life.
However, as long as it is eliminated properly, ama is a natural part of the digestive process. When these toxins are not eliminated properly, they create blockages in various channels in the body, including, but not limited to, the gastrointestinal tract, the lymphatic system, or the blood vessels. Ama has the ability to cling onto our tissues on a cellular level, ultimately weakening the body’s immune response. Eventually, this leads to the development of 90% of ailments, including autoimmune diseases and cancer, according to Ayurveda.¹
Our being largely relies on the balance between our mind, body and consciousness
Why is ama formed?
First things first: let’s look at the basics of ama formation. To do that, we need to take a closer look to our system’s digestive fire, aka agni. Our body has a total of thirteen agnis, with the central one being located in the stomach, five in the liver, and one for each of the seven tissue systems. Agni and ama are strongly interconnected in the body. When agni is weak, food remains undigested, prone to ferment. Consequently, toxic substances are released into the body. The reverse is also true, when agni thrives and functions properly, toxins are successfully eliminated from our system.
However, food is not the only one that contributes to the creation of metabolic toxins. Our being largely relies on the balance between our mind, body, and consciousness. This means that the formation of ama can creep up on all levels, meaning repressed emotions, stress, or imbalances between the three doshas are all factors that lead to the development of waste material.
How can you identify metabolic toxins?
Ama manifests itself on different levels within the body and can be easily spotted in irregularities that affect our overall quality of life. Think back on all the times you felt an inexplicable consistent fatigue, a general heaviness, or struggled with indigestion or poor appetite. Well, all of these are signs of ama acting up and diminishing vitality.
Some of the most significant signs that give away the presence of toxins and blockages in the body are:
- Sinus congestion
- Poor appetite
The quickest way to pinpoint the presence of toxins in your body is by looking at your tongue. Toxic buildup is easily recognizable as a coating on your tongue that you cannot scrape away using a tongue scraper. Check this in the morning and see if you can remove this buildup, which forms during the night as a natural way your body detoxifies. If you cannot scrape this coating away, that means ama is present in your system.
How Ama forms?
Improper nutrition and emotional stress are the two main culprits in ama formation. Both are very broad concepts so let’s break them down and look at some of the specific factors behind this metabolic toxin.
Negative feelings – grief, anger, anxiety, fear, etc. When left unprocessed, these feelings can lead to energy degradation.
Heavy or indigestible foods – eating heavy foods sends the digestive system into overdrive and weakens the digestive fire.
Incompatible products – some food products have different properties that do not go well together, disturbing digestion. Some examples of incompatible foods are milk and fruit or eggs and dairy.
A detrimental lifestyle – high-stress levels, a lack of routine, or everything in excess, from sleep to exercise, ultimately lead to toxins being formed and retained by the body.
Cold food and drinks – this tempers with the power of your digestive fire, weakening agni.
Overeating or irregular eating – eating when you are hungry rather than overeating gives your digestive system the time to process the previous meal and fully focus on the coming intake.
Suppression of natural reflex impulses – this causes Vata to move in different, inappropriate directions resulting in a weakened agni.
Repressed emotions, stress or imbalances between the three doshas are all factors that lead to the development of waste material
How to keep ama in check
It’s not all bad news. There are some things that you can do to strengthen your digestive fire and ultimately minimize the chance of waste material buildup.
Use a tongue scraper
Getting rid of toxins can start with a simple and quick step: tongue scraping. It is often overlooked but tongue scraping is a vital step in keeping general oral health. We already know how important brushing and flossing are, but the tongue doesn’t always get the same attention. By simply using a tongue scraper every morning, you can remove toxins that build up on the tongue during the night. This helps get rid of bad breath-causing bacteria, helps prevent tooth decay and gum infections, and improves overall taste. Go for a copper one as it is antibacterial and tridoshic.
Take a look at your diet
You know by now that one of the most common factors leading to the creation of toxins is undigested food. Adjusting your eating habits to your unique constitution can balance your doshas and give your agni a boost. Add some fuel to that digestive fire with spices like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon.
Make the use of spices a habit in your meal preparation
Speaking of flavor, some spices possess detoxifying properties and are known for assisting in eliminating toxins. Herbs and spices like cumin, fennel, dried ginger, black pepper, garlic, mustard seeds, and cilantro all assist in removing toxic waste.
Try a mono diet detox
At the changing of the seasons, in fall and spring, our bodies go through a transition, adjusting to the season ahead. Try a mono-diet detox during these times to help your body get rid of the accumulated toxins. A mono diet detox is usually done by eating kitchari, a traditional Ayurvedic dish made from rice and lentils. Always consult with your physician or nutrition coach before starting a detox.
Meditation and mindfulness
Another crucial vector of ama formation is unresolved emotions. Meditation usually helps to process stagnant emotions and calm the nervous system down. Try adding 15-20 min of meditation to your morning routine to help you clear your thoughts and bring your mind back in balance.
Getting your body moving is vital to keep your mind clear and your body strong, be it yoga, pilates, intensive workouts, or just a brisk walk. Try to find the type of exercise that goes with your lifestyle and routine and be consistent.
¹Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume II: A Complete Guide to Clinical Assessment. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2006