Agni and Ama

(In case you’ve missed them: Nutrition1 and Nutrition 2)

Let’s talk about the importance of agni and ama. The body’s internal digestive fire is called our agni. When agni funtions properly, whatever we have eaten gets digested and absorbed by the body. Then the body eliminates waste. Pretty simple. However, when doshas are imbalanced due to lifestyle, diet, negative emotions, etc., agni becomes weakened or disturbed and therefore cannot digest food properly. In Ayurveda, “You are what you digest.” If you can’t digest it, you’ll get imbalanced!

This undigested food (and emotions) turns into ama, which is a toxic, sticky, cloudy, smelly substance that can spread from the gastrointestinal tract to other parts of the body. From there it can lodge itself into crevices (sometimes large crevices) causing clogs in channels, blood vessels and cell membranes. Yeah, eu. It’s gross.

It sounds complicated and difficult to get ama, but it’s kind of easy if you’re not paying attention. How many times have you eaten on the go, while working, during an intense conversation or while nervous? How many times have you gone back for seconds even though you were full? Even ending a nice warm meal with a cold beverage can cause ama. Let’s start learning to use the great elements and knowledge of our own dosha(s) to our healthy advantage. Keep these in your buddhi (wisdom)! As we learn and practice, we will find ourselves evolving into new and healthier habits. If our mind is not in our eating, we won’t digest much of anything.

For tips on avoiding ama, see Nutritional Guidelines.

Some signs of ama.
Check your tongue – if it’s got a white coating, that’s ama. If it’s pink, you’re doing great.
• If your energy level is low, sluggish, sleepy, or weak
• If you feel “cloudy” in the mind
• If you feel blockage in the body (constipation, congestion, breathing)
• Indigestion
• Not hungry or no taste for food

What do I do if I have ama?
• Fasting – skip a meal or eat fruit until you are hungry and your tongue is pink
• Drink warm water
• Have ginger tea (ginger is a digestive spice)
• Eat light, warm, liquid foods like soups
• Use digesting spices like garlic, cumin seeds, ginger, black pepper
• Say a mini prayer of thanks before your meal, so your intention is on your food
• The best way to rid chronic ama is to do an extensive cleanse called panchakarma, which means “five actions.” It’s a cleansing and rejeuvenating process which gathers all vitiated doshas (and ama) and purges them from the body. It’s a total renewal of the system!

14 Responses to Agni and Ama

  1. […] the toxins more difficult because the body will have an additional task. Not only that but our agni isn’t strong either, so the food won’t digest properly anyway…causing more […]

  2. […] with varying answers. Some of the most common guesses were stress, inflammation, bad diet, ama/toxins, mal-functioning agni/digestion, and our […]

  3. […] that has built up over time AND to rebuild our agni (digestive fire) to a powerful state. Remember, mal-functiong agni is reponsible for 90% of all disease! That’s a mighty statement and GOSH is it true! Ama is […]

  4. hereIam says:

    does whole tongue should be white or pink ?
    because mine fore part of tongue is pink but other half at back is white coated . is this also considered as ama?

  5. Sarah says:

    Wow! No wonder I feel sluggish today.

    My tongue is practically always white and I am constipated most days (sorry if that grosses anyone out).

    I need to get my health back on track. Thanks for the info, Monica.

  6. Lora Loring says:

    If you were to do a kitchari cleanse, how many days do you recommend? Also, do you eat the kitchari for all 3 meals or how? I am kapha and terribly inbalanced. Thank you. I really like your site.

    • Monica says:

      Lorna, duration of kitchari cleanse will depend on the person. I recommend for a safe (unsupervised) bet is to do 3-4 days. And then yes, you eat a mono diet of kitchari. If you get snackie you can have an apple or pear for a snack. And sip an herbal tea like ccf (see seasonal bloom vata for recipe) first thing in the morning and between meals. You can also have herbal teas between kitchari as well. Kitchari REALLY tames our jacked up taste buds. It is a delicious whole food, but it’s not going to knock your socks off. Embrace the whole-ness of the foods and when you are eating, envision the kitchari nourishing and cleansing your whole body. A soft, lovely food. Great for the mind and body. Helps us make the right choices :)

  7. Brittany says:

    I definitely understand that you don’t want to get too detailed. I’m just trying to make sure I understand all of the concepts in order to get the full benefits :). I just need to slow down some more, I guess. I have been trying other methods for 5-6 months, and I’ve definitely gained some will power, but still have issues. I’m boiling me some of that ccf tea right now! I’ve also decided that I need to focus on balancing kapha right now, since what remains of my congestion is related to ama.

    I will definitely give the Ayurveda some time to do its balancing, and I will consider a consultation if I still feel I’m missing something! As a college kid, I don’t have a lot of money…especially after the doctors drained me of a bunch!

    You’re a tremendous help and an amazing person, and I look forward to getting to know myself and Ayurveda even better :)

    • Monica says:

      :) It’s all good my friend. How was the tea!? Sounds a little gnarly but I actually love the taste – it tastes clean & healing :) Namaste!!

  8. Brittany says:

    How do we do the panchakarma? I’m thinking ama is why I’m feeling out of balance in several aspects.

    • Monica says:

      Panchakarma is very intense and requires supervision of a reputable practitioner(s). You can do something like a kitchari cleanse on your own or do a fruit/juice fast with ccf tea for a few days to help rid ama. PK is definitely a time and money commitment – not to scare you off – I’m just saying you have to be ready for it. If you are really serious, do some research where you live (or close to) and see if anyone offers it.

      Also remember health does not improve over night. Start incorporating these Ayurvedic tools as habits and you will start to notice a difference. If you are interested in a consultation, I would be happy to help you individually. I fear giving too much advice without knowing the full story – the very BEST thing about Ayurveda is that it looks at YOU. And because of that, I use caution with too much detailed advice without knowing someone :)

  9. LyricNocturne says:

    Thanks for the suggestions on dealing with ama! I’ll start following them right away.

  10. Monica says:

    Yay, cool! I hope my tips help. Let me know if the tips work and you get your energy back – and if your tongue turns pink again.

  11. holliemctiernan says:

    Oh my gosh! I was just telling my coworker that I’ve felt sluggish and drained all week but didn’t know why because I’ve been getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well. NOW I get it. My tongue is white… thank you for the suggestions.

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