Welcome back to Athreya Ayurveda.
oday we will continue our discussion on Agni (aka the digestive fire). We will also highlight the effects of ama (toxins) in Ayurveda and ways to promote healthy elimination. Understanding the significance of Agni and ama helps us uncover ancient Ayurvedic secrets of life.
Thus, with some simple lifestyle changes, one can manage to live healthier and happier than before.
So without further ado, let’s learn some more about digestive fire and its rival ama.
Jan 13, 2021 | 42 minutes, 30 seconds
By Vaidya. Jay Parla
In Sanskrit, ama means toxin or undigested metabolic waste. It is an umbrella term for all sticky, slimy, aggravating, and toxic substances accumulated in the body. When our body’s metabolic efficiency is compromised, we create AMA. Its elimination is of the utmost importance. The stubborn nature of the AMA causes it to stick to the gastrointestinal tract, clogging arteries, seeping under the skin, and creeping upwards to the subtle channels of the mind.
If overlooked, the presence of ama can lead to several underlying health issues. Ayurvedic practitioners consider ama as the root of all diseases and forms of illness. They refer to such health problems as ‘Amaya’. It means ‘caused by ama.’
If ama starts spreading in the body, it may destroy everything in its pathway. This sticky, heavy substance (ama) can coat cellular membranes and tissues inside the body. Eventually, it might cause disruptions that affect the immune system. Ama can also weaken the connection between the body and the mind. That is the reason the gut is often called the ‘second brain of the body.’ The body might shut when something affects gut health.
Excessive ama might block the healthy flow of prana (the life force) and nutrients in the system. It might also trigger all three doshas and can cause imbalances that harm the overall health.
Luckily, it is relatively easy to eliminate ama from the digestive tract when it is just getting formed. The key is to recognize the causes of ama and take the initiative to encourage natural and healthy elimination. Also, remember that the digestive fire (i.e. Agni) is a counterpart of ama. Healthy digestion can effectively retain health and promote overall wellness in the body. That is why healthy eating habits, sleep cycles, and adopting an active lifestyle are essential for health.
Modern-day stressors and unhealthy lifestyle choices are key contributors to ama. One often notices that something has gone amiss when the health deters. We recommend avoiding this outcome by practicing mindful eating and staying away from ama-causing habits.
Here are a few factors to consider:
In short, disruptive lifestyle habits might cause ama-related health issues. Yet, most of the time, excessive ama gets dissipated and reduced when one makes a conscious effort to rekindle the digestive fire (i.e. Agni).
If the problem does not subside, one should consult an Ayurvedic expert for advice.
Ama can cause stagnation, which means the inhibition of oxygenated blood, nutrients, and other healthy substances in the body. Its presence can have different effects on the body, each demonstrating specific symptoms.
Here is a preview of what may happen inside our body when there is an overload of toxins inside the system:
Ama may target three levels of the digestive system. It starts by interfering with the gut (i.e. home of Jatharagni) and then moves towards the dhatus (i.e. tissues). Next, it starts disrupting the body at a cellular (or elemental) level.
If ama impairs the digestive fire, it makes healthy digestion and metabolism difficult when toxins and fatty acids do not get absorbed by the body. There are times when the disruption can hinder natural metabolism too. Due to this, undigested food can gather inside the gastrointestinal tract. For instance, unprocessed chia seeds can block the digestive tract and may trigger ama. Heavy food substances can generate acid reflux or general gastrointestinal distress.
Its accumulation may have harmful effects on theGI system.
Common issues include:
These changes can cause other health issues. Namely weight gain, lethargy, and tiredness.
Warning Signs: Smelly stool, foul breath, and gas are noticeable signs of ama in the digestive system.
We can often trace skin diseases to ama that begin to collect under the skin cells. Ama may clog the pores and block oxygenated blood from entering the affected region. It results in several skin problems that often appear e.g. Breakouts, Sensitivity, zits, boils, inflammation, and Dry patches.
Warning Signs: Red rash, swollen skin, and itchiness are other symptoms of ama.
Mentally, ama may cause brain fog and decrease cognitive activity. Consequently, psychological changes can cause disorientation, memory lapse, and mental fatigue. For instance, the accumulation of ama in brain tissues may accelerate deterioration and can inhibit the natural regeneration of brain cells. In patients dealing with dementia, ama may appear in the form of amyloid-beta. The build of this biochemical may cause cognitive disruptions and other lapses.
Ama might also influence emotional wellbeing. When that happens, one starts experiencing an unsettling feeling, racing thoughts, lack of motivation, unrefreshing sleep, and concentration issues.
Warning Signs: Extreme fatigue, lack of focus, headaches, and drowsiness.
Healthy Agni and ama are the antitheses of each other. When one thrives, the other dies. That is why Ayurveda experts recommend maintaining a healthy digestive fire to destroy ama-tendencies.
Here are a few Ayurveda-centric habits to incorporate into a daily routine:
As mentioned earlier, strengthening the digestive fire and maintaining gut health can reduce the ama. Eating consciously ensures that nothing bad enters the gastrointestinal system. When that happens, one can minimize the risk of dealing with metabolic toxins.
Here are a few ways to manage one’s diet:
Apart from this, one should eat food designed to appeal to dosha requirements. It can mitigate the risks of gastric imbalances.
At Athreya Herbs, we use traditional recipes (like Triphala and Trikatu) and herbal supplements (i.e. Healthy Skin Capsules) to soothe ama-related problems. Consider them as a natural way to cleanse the system.
Since ama is foul-smelling, its antidotes include a combination of bitter and aromatic spices. Their high concentration and active principles can cancel the harmful effects of ama. They may also replenish lost nutrients and encourage the body to activate natural immune health.
Here are top herbal and spice picks to boost digestive fire:
Apart from this, one can consume a CCCFT (cumin, coriander, cardamom, fennel, and turmeric) blend for tea or other supplementation. Their synergistic energy promotes digestive health and helps the body counter ama-related imbalances in the GI tract and beyond.
Pro-tip: Blending aromatic herbs and spices in tea or warm milk. One can also cook a vegetable broth or soup by infusing these spices. These blends assist healthy elimination. The fragrance, bitterness, and high bioactive compounds promote gut health, maintain healthy digestive fire (Agni), and support healthy bowel movements. Herbal teas manage to do this with their deep-tissue action that nourishes and nurtures one’s body on a cellular level.
For the optimal functioning of one's metabolic processes, timely relaxation of the entire digestive tract is essential. Ayurveda recommends timely resting of the digestive system, as its relaxation is essential for detoxification of the gut. Whenever the gut is tensed, it becomes vulnerable to Ama stagnation.
Meditation and traditional massages can promote relaxation. These habits naturally activate the entrance of Prana (life force) through guided breathing exercises. They also help redistribute energy levels and elevate mental capacity. Subsequently ensuring that nothing challenges the Manas.
Some calming oils and ointments support such relaxing exercises. Their sweet and bitter aroma opens airways. They also promote a soothing sensation in the mind.
Ama in Ayurveda is often a sign of stagnation. Practicing natural movement can help the body avoid excessive accumulation of ama inside the body.
Here are a few things one can do each day:
Walking at a normal pace for 20 minutes after each meal can boost natural metabolism. It does this by maintaining a healthy digestive fire.
Regular practice can shift ama and also help boost healthy blood circulation. It may also promote natural energy levels and reduce fatigue, reducing lethargy.
Pro-tip: Balance activity with rest by sleeping for 8 hours each night.
Ayurveda techniques form a connection between spiritual and mental wellbeing. Fasting is an excellent way to control toxin levels and eliminate them from the system. One consciously provides the body with a short break from unhealthy eating.
When that happens, the body may utilize stored fat and nutrients. This, in turn, can accelerate healthy elimination and natural detoxification.
How many days should we fast?
Each dosha type responds differently to fasting. We recommend observing a short fast (skipping dinner once a week) before attempting a 24-hour fast. That way, one becomes attuned to the body’s responses and avoids unwanted dosha imbalance.
Some forms of fasting require one to remove a few food items from the meal plan instead of skipping meals. Choose what is best for the body before practicing fasting.
In the end, understanding what is ama in Ayurveda leads to a mindful way of living. It ensures that one eats, sleeps, and moves consciously while maintaining a healthy digestive fire. Always look for Ayurvedic herbs and spices that promote optimal health if assistance is required. Using them as health companions can open endless possibilities for practicing natural and holistic living.
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