This report is a quest for Ama, a sanskrit term, sitting at the hearth of Ayurveda. We look for answers to 3 questions: What is Ama? How to know if you have Ama? How to remove Ama from your body?
What is Ama, really?
In Ayurveda, a 5000 year old science of life originating from India, the digestive capacity of body holds a supreme importance when it comes to describing the principles of health. The two pillars of digestion is Agni, the digestive fire, and Ama, the internal toxins created by the body if food is not digested, assimilated or eliminated properly, in other words if there is poor Agni.
The concept of Ama is unique to Ayurveda.[i] As it is not a very familiar term for Western mind I looked up for definitions from several resources and wanted to present them all here, hoping at least some of them give perspective to start understanding what it really represents.
- Aa + Ma = Near/towards + Poison, meaning substances near to poison or act like poison. An entity existing in a state of incomplete transformation. Ama is considered a physical toxin effecting also mind and spiritual well-being.[ii]
- A + Ma = Not + Me: Thing that’s not me. It is like the body says: “I need to get rid of this”. It is food that is not converted to energy. In general sense, poison kills because it sticks. It sticks to stomach, blocks the pores in GI tract where food enters. It’s difficult to eliminate, like when you mix water with sugar, how sticky it becomes. Ama is sticky as poison.[iii]
- Ama is toxic substance that is created if digestion (Agni) is impaired, mostly through detrimental lifestyle (skipping meals, eating-on-the go, too much snacking, eating out), wrong food combinations, excessive eating, or repressed emotions. The endo-toxins (Ama) generated through improper digestion are said to be the root of most diseases.[iv]
- Ama is a Sanskrit word that translates literally to mean things like “unripe”, “uncooked”, “raw”, “immature” or “undigested”. Essentially, it is a form of un-metabolized waste that cannot be utilized by the body.[v] To some degree, the formation of small amounts of Ama is a normal part of the digestive process, provided it is efficiently removed. But when it is not regularly cleared and eliminated, Ama becomes hugely problematic. In fact, Ama is said to be the root cause of all disease, and Amaya, a Sanskrit word for disease literally means “that which is born out of Ama.”[vi]
- Undigested or unabsorbed food accumulate in the large intestine turning into a heterogeneous, foul-smelling, sticky substance. This material which is called Ama, clogs the intestines and blood vessels. It eventually undergoes many chemical changes which create toxins.[vii]
Ayurveda sees all diseases starting physically in the digestive track, weakness here gives rise to formation of Ama.[viii] In other words we could say Ama lays in the root causes of all illnesses. Minimizing Ama in our body helps us a great deal to keep our body healthy and in balance.
One nice example to help us understand what Ama is the oil used in cars. At first this oil is very fluent, clear and helps the car parts function well. The ultimate purpose of this oil is to lubricate the mechanical parts as well as collecting any unexpected dirt in the car parts. Over time this oil becomes thick and sticky. You can think of Ama as this overused oil. It is essential to remove it from the body, like replacing this used oil from the car with fresh one so that car parts can continue functioning as expected. Otherwise car parts will start getting damaged by the stickiness and dirt of the used oil.
How to Know if You have Ama?
There are many signs and symptoms showing up in the body when Ama is not eliminated efficiently and starts building up in the body. I have selected my top 5 which I think are easier to observe.
- An early sign of Ama is a sticky coating on the tongue[ix] It is a good habit to clean the tongue in the morning using a tongue scraper and observing the coating coming out. If Ama in your body is efficiently removed, there should be very little to no coating.
- Almost always the digestion (Agni) and metabolism are weak.[i] So if you suffer from indigestion, slow digestion, lack of appetite and taste, these could indicate Ama in your system.
- If you drink lots of water but still feel thirsty reason could be Ama. Interestingly, biggest cause of dehydration is not little water, but lack of sleep. Waking up tired is also a sign of Ama. Quality sleep is important. Liver works when we sleep, it needs darkness and continuous time between 11:00 pm – 3:00 am to purify blood.[iii] Ayurveda also suggests that less sleep triggers a metabolism to crave for sweets and carbs. [viii] Hence more Ama.
- Ama is also often responsible for foul smelling breath, mucus, urine, and stools.[v] We are not very used to observe wastes coming out of our body, but ones you start observing, changes in them give great hints. For example, if your stool sticks to the toilet and you have to clean it, smells bad and sinks in the toilet (rather than floating) then odds are high for Ama in your system.
- Food in our diet could give huge hints about Ama. One interesting fact is if the food sticks to the plate, it could be a sign that there is Ama in the food.[iii] If your diet consists of a lot of cold and heavy foodiv, food with sweet, sour, or salty tastes[x] this could be a sign of Ama.
How to Remove Ama from Your Body?
I have selected 10 suggestions from my research. First 6 are things you may add to your daily routine and last 4 are bonus information for the reader who wants to take extra steps.
Here comes the 6 things you may add to your daily routine to reduce/remove Ama:
- A general guidance is to reduce sticky food, meaning refined white sugar, gluten, dairy products.[iii]
- Hot water dissolves the mucus in your gut, in other words dissolves Ama and increases water absorption in the body. So it is a good habit to sip on hot water.[iii], [iv]
- Increase quality sleep, especially around liver time. If increasing sleep time is the first difficult step for you, here is a hint: Going bed early is more important than waking up early.[iii]
- Reduce overeating, eating before the previous meal is digested, eating large meals at night, ice drinks and cold-food meals and left-over food.[i]
- Start adding digestion supporting spices to your food like ginger, chili, garlic (also fermented garlic!), mustard, black pepper. If you have tendency towards acid refluxes or heartburn prefer coriander, fennel, cummin and mint.[iv]
- Start applying self massage to increase lymph and blood circulation in your body. Start from the extremities (hands and feet) and work towards the body center. Do circular movements around joints and long movements on bones, always towards the heart. Try making it a morning habit.
Following items can be considered as suggestions with more Ayurvedic and Indian roots:
- Perhaps the most famous combination of herbs from India is Triphala, the three fruits contained in triphala (amalaki, bibhitaki, haritaki) are considered a panacea for all digestive disorders. Useful in almost every condition in the intestines, triphala tones the intestinal muscles, creates regularity and dispels gas. It also removes ama from the body.[xii] Usually taken as powder in tea or in pill form.
- Another famous combination from India is Trikatu, three pungents (ginger, black pepper and long pepper) are some of the best rejuvenators for Agni. Not only does this formulation stimulate digestion, it also helps burn fat and reduces mucous and Ama in the body.[xii]
- Best disinfectant to remove Ama from gut is ghee, clarified butter. Ghee melts Ama like hot water melts sticky plates. It could be a good daily habit to have 1 tea spoon of ghee (or sesame oil or olive oil) before bed. Helps bowel movements and elimination of Ama.[iii]
- If you love cooking, here are 3 Ama-reducing Recipes by Chef Mosa[xiii]. Enjoy!
[i] vpk® by Maharishi Ayurveda, http://www.mapi.com/ayurvedic-knowledge/detoxification/remove-deep-ama.html
[iii] Dr. Vignesh Deuraj, Ayurvedic Hormonal Balance for Women Workshop, İstanbul, 4-5 November 2017
[iv] Living Ayurveda: One Year Ayurvedic Medicine and Healing Training 2017 (200 hours), Module 4: Fundamentals of Ayurvedic Nutrition, by Ulli Allmendinger, MSc
[v] https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/health-guides/understanding-agni/ama-the-antithesis-of-agni/ referencing to Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. London: Churchill Livingston, 2006. Print. 44-46, 103-105.
[vi] https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/health-guides/understanding-agni/ama-the-antithesis-of-agni/ referencing to Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume II: A Complete Guide to Clinical Assessment. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press, 2006. Print. 190, 199-202.
[vii] Ayurveda, Science of Self-Healing, A Practical Guide by D.Vasant Lad.
[viii] Living Ayurveda: One Year Ayurvedic Medicine and Healing Training 2017 (200 hours), Module 1: Life in Balance, by Ulli Allmendinger, MSc
[ix] Ayurveda, A life of Balance by Maya Tiwari, p.27
[xii] Living Ayurveda: One Year Ayurvedic Medicine and Healing Training 2017 (200 hours), Module 9: Ayurvedic Therapies I: Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine, by Ulli Allmendinger, MSc