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"Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom."

- Chinese Proverb

Ama, the root cause of many diseases

By Deepa Apté on 12 June 2013

In my busy practice I get many clients suffering from conditions like chronic constipation, IBS, certain auto immune conditions, various types of acne and arthritis etc, who say the following: I have tried various remedies for my problem. I often find that there is relief for the first few days but after a while no matter what I do, I appear to be standing at a dead end. Nothing works and the problem never seems to go away.

Have you ever wondered why certain problems never seem to be treated or cured? No amount of medicines, remedies, massages etc seem to be effective. Modern medicine may not have an answer for this but Ayurveda certainly has an explanation. It describes this inability to treat certain diseases through the presence of a peculiar toxin called “Ama” in the body.

Formation of Ama:
The normal process that should take place in the body is as follows: All the food we eat should be fully digested. Half of it is absorbed into the body as nutrients and the rest of it expelled out of the body as waste products.

But sometimes due to external negative influences (e.g. stress, strain, adverse weather, inappropriate food and habits) not all the food we eat is fully digested. Perhaps just one third of the food is fully digested and absorbed as nutrients; the other third is fully digested and expelled out of the body as waste products. But there still remains a third of the food which is in a half digested condition. Because of this, it cannot be identified as either nutrients or waste products. Therefore it is neither absorbed nor expelled out. This half digested unmetabolised food product circulates in the body as toxins. Ayurveda has named such toxin as “Ama”. Ama is a Sanskrit word which literally means undigested or uncooked. The first stage of any disease is also sometimes called Ama.

This Ama acts like a solid barrier between the medication given and the final destination where the medicine needs to act. In the beginning some of the medication may trickle through this solid barrier and show some immediate relief. But after a while, no more medicine can flow through it and there is no continued relief.

Ayurveda also explains another entity called “Agni”. This word literally means fire. But in this context it means digestive fire. Agni can also be defined as the biological fire or heat that governs metabolism. It can be compared to digestive enzymes and metabolic processes that take place in our body to help break down, digest, absorb and assimilate food. Ayurveda say that a man is as old as his “Agni” or digestive fire. As long as the digestive fire is strong, Ama cannot be formed in the body.

Correlation between Agni and Ama:
Ama can be compared to the hard and solid cheese that is stored in the fridge. As long as it remains in this cold damp environment, cheese will always be hard and heavy. But once removed from the fridge and placed on a pan over a burning fire, the same cheese starts to melt and flow. Therefore to melt down the cheese one needs fire. That is where the digestive fire plays its role. Through is efficient working process, Agni helps to melt down and flush out Ama from the body.

Ama in the body:
Ama has been described as a toxic, heavy, sticky, foul smelling substance in the body. Ama can also be formed by bacterial invasion.  Bacteria emit toxic substances into the system which can be compared to Ama.
The following are some examples that indicate the presence of Ama in the body:
Painful or swollen joints
Blocked arteries

Some signs and symptoms of Ama in the body:
Irregular appetite or reduced appetite
Generalised body and joint pains. This is noticed the day after eating certain heavy foods, like meat, cheeses, desserts and fried foods.
Skin is dull and lusterless with blemishes, acne etc
Bloated stomach, gases, flatulence
Metallic taste in the mouth
White coating on the tongue
Foul smelling breath and sweat
Constipation, foul smelling stools which may be sticky, heavy and sink.
Lack of mental clarity and energy.
A sense of heaviness in the abdomen, legs or body as a whole
Weary and unenthusiastic feeling
Blocked feeling anywhere in the body, including constipation, sinus congestion and difficulty in breathing
One wakes up tired even after a good nights sleep

Symptoms of an ama-free physiology:
Once ama has been treated and eliminated, the client will report of the following changes:
One feels fresh, rested on waking up in the morning
Skin regains a healthy glow
Tongue is pink and clear
Body feels light.
Aches and pains disappear
No bloated feeling or heaviness.
Energetic feeling.
Enthusiastic and mind is clear

Treatment of Ama:
Ama can be detected or diagnosed by asking appropriate questions and examining the pulse (Nadi Pariksha). When diagnosed, it is best to treat it and get rid of it. Once an Ama-free physiology has been achieved, one can freely proceed towards treating the main ailment. The treatment mainly depends on stimulating the digestive fire or Agni. The most popular method of removing Ama is Panchakarma – Ayurvedic Detoxification process. But one can also do the following as a simple home detoxification regimen.
Drink plenty of warm water.
A ginger and lemon tea based on Ayurvedic principle is very good to stimulate the digestive fire and eliminate Ama from the body.
Triphala, a popular Ayurvedic herbal combination is also very good in Ama conditions (especially in problems relating the digestive system).
If Ama is in excess, then the classical Ayurvedic herb suggested is Pippali.
A very famous herbal jam called Chyawanprash is well known for its properties to remove toxins like Ama from the body.
Other herbs beneficial in removing Ama are: Neem, Chitrak, Trikatu, Guduchi etc.
Avoid cold aerated drinks.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and smoking.
Avoid excessive dairy products.
Avoid excess of sweet fruits and foods
Avoid meat, fish egg etc during the detoxification period of removing Ama.
Include warming herbs and spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds etc in food.
A classical Ayurvedic recipe called Kitchari (combination of mung beans and rice with various herbs and spices) is very beneficial in eliminating Ama.
Castor oil in small quantities helps to eliminate Ama through its purgative effect.
Emphasise on bitter, mildly spicy and astringent flavours.
Herbal teas are beneficial.
Steamed vegetable and warm thick soups must be taken.
Avoid wheat, pastries, bread etc
Breathing exercise like Kapalabhati, Bhastrika Pranayama, Surya Bheda.
Yoga exercises such as Surya Namaskar

surya namaskar

It is strongly recommended that you consult an Ayurvedic practitioner before starting any detoxification process to eliminate Ama. The treatment protocol may change based on a person’s body constitution and disease.

Dr Deepa Apté is a fully qualified Indian medical doctor (Bachelor of Medicine; Bachelor of Surgery, India), a qualified Yoga teacher and an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner. She lectures widely on Ayurveda and Yoga (both in the UK and Germany) and regularly has articles published in the press. After having run successful practices in India and Germany, she now runs her practice from London. She also teaches courses to trained therapists on various treatment techniques in Ayurveda.

To find out more about Ayurvedic training and Ayurvedic products and services, please contact us at:
Ayurveda Pura Ltd,
Email: info@ayurvedapura.com  
PO Box 140, London, BR7 5XU.
Tel: +44 (0) 208 295 0300



About the author

Deepa Apté

Ayurvedic practitioner, Medical doctor, Yoga instructor

Dr Deepa Apté MBBS (India), YLA, BYV, ITEC, MICHT is a fully qualified Indian medical doctor (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, India), a qualified Yoga teacher (specialising in Hatha Yoga…  Read full bio