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Ama is the toxic product of improperly digested food. It blocks the subtle channels of the body, disturbs digestion and attracts localized imbalances of the Doshas that may give rise to disease. For example, Rheumatoid Arthritis was originally described by Ayurveda as the accumulation of Ama in the joints combined with Vata.
Ama most commonly results from either weak digestion or improper dietary habits. The modern American lifestyle causes many people to adopt habits that contribute to the formation of Ama, especially from frequent eating out and reliance on processed, convenience food. Too often the diet does not include a proper balance of all six tastes and the meal is eaten in a rush without attention on the food.
Other factors that disturb the digestive fire (Agni) and which contribute to the formation of Ama include:
Ama Visha is a highly reactive form of Ama that often signals external toxins. It may also be associated with a Pitta imbalance. If your Ama Visha score is elevated, you'll benefit by thinking deeply about your exposures including work, hobbies and home environment. For example, older homes, particularly those painted before 1978, may be a source of lead. Many Vietnam War veterans were exposed to Agent Orange. There is increasing recognition of the risks of endocrine disruption from a varienty of chemicals including plasticizers. What chemicals are you or your gardener adding to your property?
Food can also be source of environmental toxins. For example, large fish like tuna concentrate mercury that has passed up the food chain. Certain conventionally-grown foods may be heavily contaminated with pesticide residues. Glyphosphate (Roundup) residues are now pervasive while their long-terms effects remain unkown. Are you folowing a lactovegetarian diet? Do you favor organically-grown foods?
If Ama is accompanied by significant symptoms or highly disturbed digestion, then it's a good idea to seek consultation. Otherwise, there are a few simple steps that anyone can take to reduce the burden of Ama, in addition to correcting faulty eating habits.
Amazingly enough, frequent sips of boiled water between meals during daylight hours can do wonders for mobilizing Ama and unblocking the channels of the body. Each morning, bring a quart of water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Then pour it in a thermos. For maximum effect, boil the water with 1/2 tsp. each of fennel, cumin and coriander seeds. Then strain into your thermos. Take an ounce or two as hot as is comfortable every 20-30 minutes. If you are suffering from hyperacidity or other Pitta imbalance, just use 1/2-1 tsp. fennel seed and allow the water to cool a bit in your cup before sipping.
Four weeks of this routine is often sufficient to make a big impact, if you correct the causative habits. Those with high Ama should generally continue for three months.
The metabolism has a lot of work to do in "cooking" the Ama. You can facilitate the process by shifting to a lighter diet for a few weeks - in quality and quantity. That means avoiding heavy foods or taking them only occasionally in small amounts at lunch. Consider using the Purification Diet as a guide if you want to accelerate your progress.
Here are the most important points:
If you are overweight, consider a liquid fast one day per week on a regular schedule.
If hyperacidity is not a problem, first thing in the morning drink a cup of warm water with 1 tsp. raw honey and a few drops of lemon juice. This cleanses the digestive tract and stimulates digestion. If there is acidity, skip the lemon juice.
Use spices appropriate for balancing your Doshas according to any symptoms of imbalance or to the season. Spices not only balance the digestive fire, the make the food itself more digestible. See the diet sheets for details.
Herbs are a beneficial adjunct to the elimination of Ama. I highly recommend them when digestion is significantly disturbed. The following can be ordered from MAPI under the category: Herbal Supplements - Digestion or by phone 800-255-8332. If you order herbs or personal care products from MAPI as a new customer and choose to give my name as the referring provider, they will give you a 20% premium in Loyalty points applicable to future orders and I will receive a 20% commission going forward.
Take 2-4 tablets at bedtime with warm water or boiled milk. The higher dose might be needed if you suffer from constipation. Digestone gently cleanses the digestive tract and has Rasayana value. Plan to take this for at least 3 months.
If you suffer from hyperacidity, reflux or excessive hunger, you will find this beneficial. Take two tablets twice daily. When taken after meals, it is most balancing for digestion. When taken on an empty stomach, about 8 AM and 4 PM, it helps to eliminate Ama as well.
Herbal Digest is helpful for those who suffer from irregular hunger with bloating, gas, cramps or constipation. It is also excellent for those with weak digestion with lack of appetite or heaviness after meals, who are overweight or frequently have the sensation that the food just sits there. Take two tablets twice a day before lunch and dinner.
If you are suffering from the ill effects of Ama, the first step is to follow the above process. After the burden of Ama has been reduced, you may proceed with detoxification procedures. While these are best timed to the change of seasons, as long as your Ama Score is no greater than mild, you can undertake detoxification whenever your schedule can accommodate the requirements.