Ayurveda and Ama (Improperly Digested Food)




Have you looked at your tongue lately? Does it have a coating on it? If so, this is an indication of ama – the toxic residue of improperly digested food. Not a good thing! In fact, ama can lead to disease. We’re always talking about digestion here, and a big reason for this is that if you don’t digest well, you are likely going to create ama. 


Below you will see the word “agni.” Agni refers to “digestive fire.” It is critically important to have healthy digestive fire so that you will fully and completely digest your food and not create ama. Read on to learn more…


“Ama is a toxin that is created within the digestive system in response to poor digestion. Ama means, “unripe or undigested.” Ama overflows from the digestive system, coats the cells of the body and mixes with the doshas. Together ama and the doshas enter the dhatus and srotamsi of the body and interfere with the normal functions of the affected tissue. 

Ama complicates disease. Diseases are classified as occurring with ama (sama) or without ama (nirama). These types of diseases are often managed entirely differently. Hence, the ability of the practitioner to determine if ama is present is very important. 

Ama is caused by poor digestion. Poor digestion occurs when agni is disturbed. Agni may be disturbed by any dosha. Kapha causes low agni and digestion becomes weak. Vata causes variable agni. The periods where agni is low again causes ama. Pitta too can cause ama to form. Even though pitta leads to high agni, the watery (oily) component of pitta can overwhelm the fire compromising the ability of agni to digest the food. Though fire is high, agni is again low. A low digestive agni is only capable of partially digesting the food consumed. The remaining partially digested food putrefies and becomes the breeding ground for bacteria, fungus and parasites and their toxins and excrement. 

No one really knows exactly what ama is. There is no single clearly identifiable toxin that can be labeled as ama. It is more likely that ama, if an individually identifiable substance, is beyond the scope of the senses or current instrumentation. Or, ama may be understood as the sum total of toxic residues accumulated from faulty digestion. 

Ama is most easily identified by its signs and symptoms. When ama is present in the body, the tongue usually becomes coated, the breath is foul and the body odor is strong. As ama occurs when the digestive agni is weak, the patient will usually present with digestive symptoms as well. As ama interferes with tissue function, patients with ama often appear fatigued.” ~ Excerpt from “Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine,” by Dr. Marc Halpern, Founder of the California College of Ayurveda