In common language, Ama means unripe or uncooked food. Various components of the food and body tissues are the fuel of various types of Agni (Digestive fire). In any circumstances where Agni cannot digest or combust the fuel, the results are an undigested, toxic and obstructive kind of substance called Ama. Ama from food may be physically evident, but Ama from Dhatu (tissues) and Mahabhuta (5 elements) metabolism is physiological in nature and is evident through its functions in the body.
When there is Agnimandya or deranged digestive fire, formation of Ama takes place. Getting absorbed into the body, this Ama vitiates the Dhatu (tissues), slowly affecting the organs. The spectrum of the diseases that occur due to Ama range from acute, like diarrhea, dysentery and fever, to chronic, like rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, anaemia and cirrhosis of the liver, etc. The type of disease one gets would of course be governed by several associated factors such as genetic predisposition, encounter with other etiological factors and the basic strength of the tissues. Ama is generated from improperly digested food. Such food does not contribute to the nourishment of tissues but instead exerts a negative effect on immunity. Ama, being an unwanted element for the body, evokes a strong immune response. Prolonged Ama and the interaction of the immune response with Ama, form an immune complex which exerts a destructive effect on healthy tissues. Many conditions like hypersensitivity, auto immune disorders and many diseases thought to be of unknown origin have Ama at its root.
We have to follow the simple rules of nature. Avoid overeating or eating before the last meal has been digested. Thus one should not face-feed your child, let the child demand food. Let children decide how much they want and when they want. Another precaution to take is to give a fairly predictable amount of fuel to the Agni to burn every day.
There is no point in irritating the Agni by gorging on heavy food one day, repenting and compensating by complete fasting the next day. An individual should know what his or her body can tolerate. Even cold items like cold drinks and ice cream can slow down the Agni’s activities. Ayurveda has described certain dietary items that are incompatible with each other (Viruddha Ahara) and if consumed together can lead to the formation of Ama. For example, milk, buttermilk or curds should not be mixed with fruits; milk or curd not to be mixed with meat particularly chicken; Fish should not to be taken with sugar, jaggery or molasses or with milk; condensed milk should not to be taken with alcohol. Honey, although a health promoting substance, should not be taken with hot milk or hot water. Fermented foods as such are not contraindicated. However, if Agni is weak as happens during monsoon or summer or in the elderly or when one is convalescing after a serious illness or during any sickness, fermented foods would burden the Agni and lead to improper digestion and formation of Ama.
Monitored fasting or Langhana is the prescribed method for treatment of Ama. Langhana prevents formation of Ama and can allow for the natural digestion of existing Ama. During this period of fasting, Agni does not have a fresh load of food to digest and therefore can take care of the backlog. Fasting does not mean absolute abstinence of food, but some light food is recommended to keep the Vata pacified. Herbs and spices can also be used to help enkindle the Agni. After a therapeutic fast, when the Agni resumes functioning, a person can immediately sense it. They will feel better, the coating on the tongue will disappear and the pangs of hunger will reappear. But this is the time when control needs to be exercised. One should avoid spicy food or heavy to digest meals.
A fast can be ended with a glass of fruit juice and once the Agni has been kindled, one can slowly move to liquid, semi-solid and solid foods. This is exactly the reason that after an operation or a delivery, when the Agni is weak, one does not eat rich foods. One should avoid cold water and drink lukewarm water. After fasting, the diet should consist of light to digest food, soups, rice, well-cooked lentils (mung or pigeon pea or orange lentils) and boiled vegetables. Spices like dry ginger, garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom or cloves should be used while cooking to rekindle Agni. Ghee is a particularly good stimulant of Agni. However it should be consumed in small quantities only. Large amounts of ghee or food items fried in ghee can hamper Agni. One may use unrefined oils too like sesame oil, mustard oil, olive oil, etc. in diet instead of ghee.
So for proper functioning of Agni and prevention of Ama one should follow healthy diet & lifestyle suggested by Ayurveda.
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