Weak Digestion Creates Ama
When digestion is weak or unbalanced, there is a third function of the digestive system. Perhaps food doesn’t break into small enough pieces, or perhaps it sits, stagnating and fermenting, in a digestive tract that is not moving efficiently. In either case, not all food is absorbed or eliminated. This is ama. Ama is the portion of undigested waste that stays in the body. Unused and unable to be eliminated, it becomes the Swamp-Thing of the digestive tract, growing stickier, thicker, and more unctuous with time, and is stored in the storage tissues, particularly fat cells and joint spaces.
Ama actually translates to mean “uncooked”. When we can’t metabolize something, be it food, breath, information, or emotion, there is a lack of the necessary transformative energy that is needed for that thing to be digested. Unmetabolized, or uncooked, those things that should feed our senses instead create toxicity. Toxicity equals ama.
Symptoms of Ama in Your Body
Many symptoms that precursor disease are a sign that excess ama has built up in your body. You may have one system that is prone to collecting ama and shows symptoms earlier than others. For example, one person may have chronic stomach upset, another headaches, and yet a third may have chronic rashes. Yet all of these people likely have one thing in common: ama. The more attuned you become to this, the more sensitively you may notice signs and symptoms before they lead to disease. Attune to ama buildup and you may notice the first hint of a stomach-ache (and take action to clear the ama) before it leads to full blown IBS. Here is a list of symptoms, both subtle and not, that may indicate ama in your body:
Joint pain or stiffness upon rising
General Pain including headaches
Feeling tired, lazy, drowsy or weak.
Heaviness or fatigue after eating
Gas or Bloating
Constipation or mucous in the stool
Belching or burping frequently
Susceptibility to illness
Oily or sticky skin with sweat
Body odor or bad breath
Difficulty thinking or remembering things
Now that you understand what ama is and how it manifests as symptoms in the body, you need to understand what “harmless” habits you may be keeping that are contributing to ama in the first place.
Ways You May be Unknowingly Creating Ama in Your Body
The most significant way you may be creating ama in your body is eating too heavy too late
When you eat too late (after 6pm) your body literally lacks the metabolic force (called agni in Ayurveda) to break down your food. Similarly, when you eat too much at one sitting, you smother the proverbial digestive fire. Most people become lazy after a late, heavy dinner and lie on the couch, where even gravity cannot help the digestive cause. There is a reason that eating an earlier, lighter dinner is the first habit we teach at AyurvaWellness. To avoid ama accumulating on a nightly basis, eat early, eat light and stay active.
A second big contributor to ama is our habit of taking in food, substances or information to avoid or control how we are feeling.
If your mental and emotional bodies are busy contending with a heavy load, putting in food or other distractive substances leads immediately to ama. You just can’t digest both things. This is why you lose your appetite when something major happens. It’s your body’s wise way of saying “tune in and attend to me.” So do it.
The third heavy hitter on ama production is eating foods that aren’t fresh or those that are processed.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Eat food that is seasonal and local and comes from a source close to the earth and your body will know just what to do with it. Instead if you eat canned, boxed, old or processed food it becomes ama.
Fourth example of how you may be creating ama in your body is a little less intuitive
Something that may contradict what you have heard from popular health and medical authorities. Eating too frequently as in, “five small meals a day” is a major offender in producing ama. Why? That metabolic force we were talking about – agni – is a fire that needs tending.
To burn food efficiently it needs time to process, to turn food into ash, to smolder, and to rebuild. Add little bits of kindling over and over to the fire and it never recovers its intensity to handle all the rest of the stuff that is coming in. To put it another way, when you put food in too frequently you are taxing the efficiency of your body’s largest and most central channel. With a little load in the stomach, another in the small intestine, and several more in the large intestine all of your processing energy is stuck on food.
This leaves no room for processing information, emotions, and all of the other things we take in on a daily basis. Give the fire a rest between meals (specifically 3-4 hours between and minimum 13 hour fast between dinner and breakfast) and the fire will burn brightly, without subsequent ama.
Reset and Release that Ama
Now you are wondering, what to do with the ama once it’s accumulated in your system? In Ayurveda we recommend seasonal cleansing, which is the best way to get rid of this toxins we have accumulated in our daily life. Seasonal detox rids your body of the toxic load before it turns to illness.
But let’s say you have just returned from vacation where you’ve exceeded your ama quotient by eating excessive pasta, cheese and drinking too frequently.
One of the well known reset is a three day mung-bean soup fast. It’s a quick way to purge toxins and support the digestive tract in recovering its strength. And it’s easy!
Make a fresh pot of soup each day and eat only that for breakfast, lunch and dinner (it’s only three days). Mung beans are notorious for their cleansing properties and very easy to digest, plus this simple food contains all the nutrients you need to support your body and sustain normal activity. Simply eat mung soup for three meals per day and drink plenty of fresh, warm water and you will feel as if you’ve hit the proverbial reset button.
Even the best yogi can’t be ama free. Toxins are everywhere, even in our clean food and drinking water.