Doshas are the fun part of Ayurveda. Everyone likes to talk about doshas—or, more to the point, everyone likes finding out about their individual doshic balance. Because this information gives you clues to how you, specifically, interact with the universe around you. Some people do well with coffee, others shouldn’t touch it. Some people get enlivened by running at 6:00 in the morning, others do better with a leisurely walk or a nice swim. Understanding your constitution allows you to make informed choices and gives you a degree of control over your health and happiness.
The topic of good digestion doesn’t have the same charm, even though it is considered foundational to good health. The truth of the matter is that of all the action steps that you can take to stay healthy, maintaining good digestion and avoiding the accumulation of ama are at the top of the list—above balancing the doshas.
Ideally, all the food we eat should be fully digested so that it can either be absorbed into the body as nutrients or expelled as waste. Unfortunately, due to various influences (e.g. irregular life style, stress, weather, inappropriate food, and bad eating habits) not all the food we eat gets fully digested. When this happens the half-digested or not-fully-metabolized food gets circulated in the body as toxins. Ayurveda has named this kind of toxin “ama”.
Ama is heavy, oily, and sticky and can interfere with the normal functioning of both the body and mind.
Negative impact of ama and a poor digestion
1. Even if we are eating fresh, healthy foods we are not able to get the needed nutrients from our food.
2. Ama clogs the channels of the body’s cells, organs and tissues. In the digestive tract poorly digested food can create a slimy material that lines the bowels, interfering with the absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Ama in the blood vessels can result in the accumulation of lipids and other substances, leading to the formation of plaque and a restriction of the blood flow. Ama in the joints can lead to arthritis. Ama in the cell membranes can hinder the exchange of nutrients. Ama within cells can hinder the action of hormones and other biochemicals.
3. Undigested food particles are looked upon as ‘foreign invaders’ by our immune system, triggering an antibody and histamine response. This negative immune response in the body’s tissues can lead to serious disorders and disease.
How do I know if I have ama?
Common signs of ama in the body are:
Thick, white coating on the tongue
Sluggish, bloated and sleepy feelings, after a meal or in the mornings, even though you have slept well
Strong cravings for fast foods or junk foods
Bad breath, skin breakouts, sweat, gas and bad-smelling stools
Dull skin and/or whites of the eyes, or yellow teeth.
Clouded thoughts, lack of focus, or feeling unmotivated in life
Frequent colds, flue, infections
How do I reduce ama?
Eat warm, freshly cooked foods that are easy to digest and are suitable for your body time and for the season
Eat slowly. Chew your food well. Put you full focus on your meal (and not on the TV or computer)
Eat your main meal at noon when the digestion fire is at its peak
Maintain a regular routine. Eat at regular times, three times a day. Go to bed on time, rise early in the morning.
Sip hot water throughout the day. Heat helps melt the ama and water helps to flush the ama out of the body.
Use spices such as ginger, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon and fresh ground pepper as recommended by an Ayurvedic expert
Undertake seasonal panchakarma treatments (the traditional detoxification treatments of Ayurveda.
Spring is the ideal time to detoxify our bodies. As the warm weather begins to melt away the snow a similar process takes place in our bodies. The ama that has accumulated all winter begins to melt and enters into our circulatory system. This sudden influx of ama can clog the shrotas, the microcirculatory channels of the body and can cause the body to over-react to pollen and other allergens. Supporting you body’s natural detoxification with Panchakarma treatments can help avoid spring colds, flus and allergies.
For more information on panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website: