Ama are the toxins that accumulate in the body when we lose contact with nature’s rhythms. They may arise when we ingest food that is denatured, processed, packaged or laden with chemicals. Alcohol, tobacco, excessive meat consumption and caffeine create toxic residues. As can the chemicals in our water and environmental pollution. Toxins also enter the body via the skin when we expose ourselves to the chemicals in skin care products, cleaning products and hair dyes. Then there are the toxic effects of electro magnetic waves, micro waves etc. Even eating food that is out of season or incompatible to our bodies can produce toxins.
Toxins can also be created when the digestive system is not functioning optimally. Whether or not your digestive system creates nutrient or ama/toxins from your food, depends on how strong your digestion is. In fact, the power of your digestion is the most important determinant of your health and longevity. According to Ayurveda good digestion and metabolism is absolutely essential for a long, healthy life. Ayurveda understands digestive strength in terms of agni. Loosely translated, agni refers to the powerful digestive juices and transformative energy which breaks down and converts food into energy to fuel our bodies trillion cells. Agni is the digestive enzymes, the movement of the digestive enzymes and the structure of the digestive system itself. A well stoked agni fire runs the body efficiently, keeping the build up of toxic waste or ama at bay. A dampened digestive fire, like a camp fire on a rainy day, is not able to burn its fuel (our food) completely. It leaves partially digested food materials and metabolic by-products to collect in the tissue of the body. Weak digestive power is also responsible for an overall decline in our assimilation as we get older. Studies indicate that as we age absorption of nutrients is reduced, leading to chronic vitamin and mineral deficiencies that play an important role in chronic health problems which tend to arise in our later years.
The toxic effects of negative life experiences, emotions, trauma, stress, breakdown in relationships,negative thoughts and addictions are also a form of ama. When the body-mind is chronically bathed in the biochemistry of anger, hate, envy, jealousy, resentment, stress, fear etc we experience the cellular dysfunction which accompanies such mental or emotional ama. The physical toxicity accompanying such negative states is recognized in ayurveda as a rising from pragya aparadha, which is the mistake of the intellect.
Modern medicine is no stranger to ama. It knows ama as excess cholesterol, free radicals, trans-fatty acids, uric acid and homocysteine among others. Although it doesn’t have a general term for it, medical science recognizes specific types of illness caused by accumulated metabolic wastes. Atherosclerosis (blockage of the arteries due to disturbances in cholesterol metabolism), gall stones (from sludgy ama laden bile), gouty arthritis (due to excess uric acid from faulty protein metabolism), or kidney stones (from the build up of calcium or oxalic acid) are all diseases that result from the build up of ama. According to Ayurvedic theory, not only these, but nearly every chronic disease involves accumulation of some form of ama somewhere in the body. At its worst, ama can stimulate an immune reaction against it – which results in inflammation. The latest medical theory credits inflammation as the key underlying factor in many chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer. What modern medicine does not address is what causes the inflammation to begin with. Rather than a chance, confused immune response, Ayurveda understands that inflammation is the bodies healing response at work, trying to eliminate the toxic ama that underlies the inflammation. Clear out the toxins, Ayurveda advises, and the inflammation will resolve without anti-inflammatories, steroids or other drugs and their harmful side effects.
We are living in a world where it is inevitable that toxins will accumulate in the body. These toxins eventually are absorbed into the bloodstream and lodge in weakened areas in the body. Overtime these toxins block flow and prevent the optimal functioning of many of our systems. This results in the accumulation of more cellular waste which can cause many symptoms including gas and bloating, joint pains, chronic sinus congestion, night sweats, tiredness, constipation, stiffness, muscle soreness and brain fog.
If not eliminated, ama in the tissues eventually leads to full blown disease in the areas where it has accumulated the most.