Picture credit: https://www.woodenearth.com/
What is Ama?
The concept of ‘ama’ in Ayurveda is a metaphorical representation of toxins. In Sanskrit, the term translates to “uncooked”, “raw”, “immature” or “undigested”. It is a kind of unmetabolized waste that accumulates within the human body when food particles are not digested completely. The formation of a moderate amount of ama in the stomach is normal when it comes to the digestive process. However, it is important that the residuals are removed daily (for example by using a Tongue Scraper). Accumulation of ama in the body for a prolonged period can lead to it becoming the root cause of several diseases, commonly known as ‘amaya’ in Sanskrit.
People often consider ama to be a physical condition. However, raw emotions if not released, or kept unchecked can transform into mental ama.
Causes of Ama
In most cases, ama is a result of a defective or weak digestive system (a result of a prolonged unhealthy diet plan). The undigested food particles accumulate for some time and eventually begin to rot as a result of bacterial fermentation. This releases toxins into the body (bacterial waste products).
There are several reasons that can trigger the accumulation of ama in the human body. Some of the most common causes are:
- A poor diet including overeating, consumption of fried food and unhealthy food combinations.
- Consumption of very cold or processed food.
- An unhealthy lifestyle involving the lack of a proper routine, high levels of stress, inadequate or intensive amounts of exercise.
- Sleeping during wee hours of the day
- Unresolved or suppressed emotions
In Ayurveda, identifying and eliminating the cause of a health imbalance is the first step towards treating an ailment.
While in some cases, the cause of the imbalance might not be quite clear to you, a professional practitioner can always help you identify the cause.
Signs of Ama In the Human Body
According to Ayurvedic texts, blocked channels like plaque build-up in the arteries, diminishing strength in the body and a sluggish or heavy feeling are the initial symptoms of ama in the human body. Experiencing a heavy feeling in the body and waking up with stiffness in the joints are some of the initial indicators that you have ama accumulation in your body.
A few common indications of ama accumulation are:
- Congestion of the channels resulting in symptoms like lymph congestion, sinus congestion, constipation, etc.
- A feeling of fatigue and heaviness through the day.
- An abnormal stream of vata flowing through your body that includes the upward movement or downward movement of excess energy resulting in heartburn or diarrhea.
- An unhygienic feeling
- Mental confusion
- Sexual debility
- Thick coating on the tongue
- Abnormal taste, poor appetite or muted taste
Some other indications of ama accumulation include a foggy and unclear state of mind, feeling sleepy or gloomy after you eat and unpleasant or stinky body odor. Toxins usually clogs the pathways of circulation within the body, thereby restricting the movement of nutrients to the organs and cells. It might also block the channels that carry out waste material, resulting in the buildup of toxic materials in the body.
Once the physician records the pulse of the patient, (s)he gets a sense of clarity on the present health condition of the patient. In most cases, the pulse appears to be sticky, heavy and weak. This results in weak metabolism and digestion throughout.
Types of Ama
The human body has three prime doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The type of Ama is different in case of each of these doshas, depending on the way each of them reacts to the ama.
When ama in the body reacts with the vata, it accumulates in the lower area of the abdominal region and the pelvic cavity. It is inclined towards disturbing the joints and the colons. Since the vata ama distracts the agni present in a body, there are high chances that the patient might feel constipated. The ama causes a pungent and dry taste in the mouth of the person. Common symptoms of vata ama include bloating, congestion, dry skin, severe body pains, and general aches.
When the pitta dosha is affected by ama, it generally tends to accumulate in the central portion of the abdomen. This causes a stagnant feeling within the small intestine, gallbladder, and liver. Since the pitta ama tends to circulate throughout the blood, it produces an acidic, sour and fleshy smell along with a bitter sensation in the mouth. The strength of the digestive fire (agni) tends to dampen with ama. This brings down a person’s urge to eat, causes indigestion, fever, skin disorders, rashes, heartburn, and diarrhea. Pitta ama, if left untreated, can lead to the formation of ulcers and severe mucus linings, liver disorders, and even blood infections.
The Kapha ama is usually accumulated in the chest, lungs, sinuses, and stomach. It is thick, stringy, cloudy and foul smelling. It is prone to creating a sweet and salty taste within the mouth. If inflicted with kapha ama, you might feel the frequent urge to burp but might not be able to finally relieve the sensation. It subdues the appetite and leads to lymphatic congestion and tenderness.
Ways to Eliminate Ama
Yoga is a great way in which one can bring about a reduction of toxins within the human body. It helps you sweat it out, warms your body and helps wring out and stretch the tissues that contain the amassed ama within. It has been noticed that the kinds of yoga beneficial for one’s body varied from individual to individual. Nevertheless, 10 to 20 minutes of yoga can prove to be highly effective for anyone who follows. Yogic postures awaken the prana within the body and calm the mind. A few suggested forms of yoga include pitta, vata, and kapha.
Diet is a powerful tool when it comes to eliminating ama from a person’s body. Some great ingredients to get rid of ama are green vegetables, mung beans, pumpkin seeds, honey, spicy teas, cardamom, dandelion and root coffee.
Raising the body’s temperature and sweating it out a bit, thins down the ama present in the body. It relaxes the grip of the ama on the tissues, helping it move towards the digestive tract and eliminate it. Common ways in which you can induce sweat are rigorous workouts, gentle steam baths, and a sauna. However, it is important to take care of the levels of pitta. Intense sweating and high levels of heat can unintentionally escalate the levels of pitta and result in unwanted imbalances.
Opting for herbal support is a great option when the agni or digestive capacity of the human body is strong enough to aid appetite. Therapeutic herbs contain a perfect mixture of a bitter and pungent taste. The pungent flavor helps digest and destroy the accumulated ama, while the bitter taste dries it out. Ayurvedic herbs act as a catalyst in reviving the damaged digestive fire. In some cases, the herbs are consumed before the meal to rekindle the digestive juices and in some cases, after. The proper combination of herbs used to detox depends on the symptoms and requirements of each person and is determined by the physician.
A deep cleansing regimen becomes essential at times to draw out the accumulated toxins from the tissues. An Introduction to Ayurvedic Cleansing puts forward several cleansing techniques for the purpose. While some techniques are simple, others are lengthy, complex and tend to have a deeper effect. These therapies, however, strictly need to be administered by a physician. While there are options galore, choosing the right cleansing program is important. The approach you take must directly be inclined towards the imbalances you wish to address
Fasting, though a very helpful tool in eradicating ama, can prove to be quite provoking at times. This is why, it should be done with immense care. In some fasts, you can consume soups or juices, while in other fasts, you might just drink water for a long period of time. Herbal teas and hot water helps clear out the toxins from the body while helping settle hunger pangs in the stomach. Ayurveda recommends a mono-diet fast (see here our article about Kitchari) for eliminating ama from the body.
Ama can be treated using Ayurvedic forms of medications and even by bringing about a change in one’s lifestyle. If you know there is a lot of ama accumulation in your physiology, schedule a session with an ayurvedic expert and take care of the health problems.