Sluggish, lacking in energy, disturbed bowels, lack of proper hunger, excess phlegm or just out-and-out exhaustion.

These are just some of the things you may feel if you have āma.  If you recognise any of these symptoms, read on, the prognosis is good.

The majority of my clients have some degree of āma, especially those with ‘IBS’ and other digestive issues, rheumatic joint or muscle pain, autoimmune conditions, weight gain and low energy levels.

The great news is, it is easily dealt with – we just use dietary changes and herbs to digest up the āma in the body.  To understand how to deal with it, let’s first find out what it is.

Sticky, undigested toxins which block the essential processes in the body

Āma is unmetabolised sticky waste which can’t be eliminated from the body.  It is anything which has been improperly digested or metabolised, is unuseable in the body and has putrified, become sticky and foul smelling.  If left to stagnate long enough it becomes poisonous and there are serious health consequences.

Āma can only exist if key metabolic processes are not functioning properly.  We refer to these processes in Ayurveda as types of fire[1] There are three main types of these fires;

  1. The digestive processes we have in our digestive tract which break down food to a simple form and allow it to be absorbed into the system (digestive-fire[2])
  2. The processes in the liver and circulation which transform and sort through the broken down food into useable nutrients and excretable waste (elemental-fires[3])
  3. The transformational processes which use these nutrients to synthesise tissues and provide energy for those tissues. (tissue-fires[4])

If any of these processes in the body aren’t working well, āma is formed.

Eating food incompatible with your digestive capability and constitution, unhygienic food, strong emotions, stress and withholding urges (e.g. bowel movements, flatus, urine) can all cause these fires to diminish and thus allow āma to form.

Once formed, āma blocks the channels and can cause further reduction in metabolic fires.  Thus, a vicious cycle can occur.

agni ama cycle

If āma is purely caused by poor digestive power, it may just remain in the digestive tract and contaminate the ‘food essence’ (the essence of food created by the digestive system and used to create the bodily tissues).  This causes digestive symptoms such as indigestion, loss of appetite and taste and constipation.  It can also create thready saliva and mucous and a difficult-to-remove coating on the tongue.  The systemic symptoms which arise due to the circulation of ‘food essence’ are exhaustion, heaviness and lethargy.  With time, chronic digestive syndromes can occur.  Increasing the digestive fire allows this to be digested, then passed out of the body.

Āma in the rest of the body weakens us and reduces tissue nutrition

Āma can also spread to be involved in bodily tissue formation, where it can cause further problems.  It can also occur if the deeper metabolic processes (elemental-fires or tissue-fires) aren’t working well.

From there, āma can go on to cause many other diseases.  It is the number 1 cause of disease in the body.  The nature of the disease will vary depending on where the āma gets lodged (often at an inherently week part or tissue of the body) and with which doshas it combines.

Āma at a deep tissue / cellular level can be very serious

If the āma remains in the body for a long time, the āma can lodge deep in the tissues and cells and can initiate autoimmune reactions (such as in rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis) and cancer growth.

Get rid of ama and feel yourself again

The body can get rid of āma if given the right help.  All it needs is a chance to build up the digestive and metabolic fires so that āma is digested properly and so that no more is created. The vicious cycle is then stopped in its tracks.

  • Lighten your diet so that the digestive fire (and others dependent on it) has a chance to burn brighter. For a while (don’t worry, not forever), cut out meat, yoghurt, cheese, wheat, fried food, processed food and sugar.  Eat LOTS of green vegetables, healthy grains, many herbs and spices, herbal teas, warm water and mung beans (the easiest pulse to digest).
  • Cleanse using a mono-diet of mung bean soup (see here) or kitchari along with green vegetables.
  • Consider a fast as this will give your digestive fire a rest and a chance to strengthen.
  • Digest up your āma using powerful āma digesting herbs such as trikatu, triphala, neem and tulsi.
  • Meditate or have a reflective calming activity each day so that any stress and agitation are reduced (as these affect the body’s fires too).
  • Learn about your digestive fire by reading all about it here.
  • Seek a consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner if you need a hand.

Avoid ama, remain energetic and healthy

Āma can not form if the digestive fires are strong.

The way to avoid āma and stay healthy is to make sure your digestive fire is looked after which essentially means:

  • Eating only when you’re hungry
  • Eating until your are just satisfied, about 2/3 full
  • Choosing warm food and drinks over cold
  • Sipping drinks throughout the day rather than gulping all in one go.
  • Having more emphasis in your diet on easier-to-digest foods (pulses, vegetables, fruit, seeds) rather than heavier ones (meat, eggs, yogurt, cheese, wheat, fried food, processed food). You should also make sure the food you eat is appropriate for your constitution, see an Ayurvedic practitioner if you’re not sure what to do here.
  • Adding lots of herbs and spices to your diet as these kindle fire.
  • Having a regular fast where you reduce your food consumption. For those of a kapha constitution, consider a water-only fast one day a week.  For those of a pitta constitution, have one day a week with just juices or green vegetables.  For those with a vata constitution, try a day with just porridge and warm soups.
  • Having reflective and relaxing activities in your daily life so that you aren’t working under a high level of stress.

For more on understanding and maintaining excellent digestive fire, read more here.

For the ultra curious… foreign agents as ama

If you’ve come this far, I’d put you in the ‘really interested camp’ so you may find this interesting.  We’ve talked about āma being the incorrect products of digestion or metabolism.  Another form of āma can be unchecked ‘foreign agents’ in the body such as bacteria and free radicals which have entered through the digestive system, inhalation or injection.

If the digestive and metabolic fires are strong, foreign agents entering the body will be digested or broken down swiftly and eliminated.  If the fires are weak, these foreign substances are not broken down and are allowed to circulate in the system, causing disruption to the metabolic processes in the body.  These are classed as āma because they are improperly processed, unuseable and are sticky (difficult to eliminate).  This āma will disrupt the body just as described in the section above.

These concepts of āma and digestive fires, explain why two people may be exposed to the same antigen, but only one will go on to develop an illness.

Stay āma free by nurturing your digestive fire.

Until next time, take care of yourselves.


Author: Kate Siraj, Ayurvedic Practitioner, BSc Ayurveda, MChem (Oxon), MAPA.
© The Ayurveda Practice

Photos thanks to

[1] Agni

[2] Jatharāgni / kayāgni

[3] Bhutāgni

[4] Dhatwāgni


Alison · May 6, 2016 at 14:48

Another excellent, interesting article Kate. I think my āma is about to get a shock!

Rachel wright · November 5, 2018 at 12:38

A great blog containing necessary details about the Ama formation, accumulation and ways to get rid of it. Ama is a toxic material and an impurity which is accumulated in the body due to bad eating habits and one must take necessary steps to eliminate it from the body. Again it is also a blog worth sharing.

Panchakarma – powerful therapy, intense results - The Ayurveda Practice · September 9, 2016 at 13:44

[…] of āma (unmetabolised sticky […]

Banish sugar cravings - The Ayurveda Practice · March 17, 2017 at 14:04

[…] The Ayurvedic view on refined sugar is also not favourable.  It upsets all three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) and can cause the formation of āma. […]

Add spices, add flavour, improve nutrition - The Ayurveda Practice · October 13, 2017 at 12:07

[…] Herbs and spices, through their pungent and bitter tastes, kindle the digestive fire.  This means our digestive power increases which shows as a keener appetite, better ability to breakdown and absorb nutrients and increased ability to effectively excrete waste products from the body.  All in all, this means we are better nourished and free from toxins. […]

You’re not what you eat, you’re what you digest - The Ayurveda Practice · June 22, 2018 at 13:23

[…] of ama (sticky toxins in the body) including lethargy and a coating on the […]

Enjoy your Christmas roast with impunity this winter - The Ayurveda Practice · May 3, 2019 at 15:38

[…] for someone in relatively good health and balance.  If you have been advised that you have high āma or kapha, this advice will not work for you and you will need to talk to a practitioner about what […]

Understanding your elemental constitution and imbalance – in pictures - The Ayurveda Practice · May 3, 2019 at 16:28

[…] guide to your likely levels of āma (toxicity) in the 7 tissues and the digestive […]

Conquer stress with my five favourite adaptogens - The Ayurveda Practice · May 3, 2019 at 16:28

[…] this for boosting energy and strength and helping those with autoimmune diseases (once there is no ama present).  If someone has hypothyroid and isn’t on thyroid medication, I use it to help them […]

Avoid these combinations (and ignore the myths) - The Ayurveda Practice · November 21, 2020 at 17:03

[…] food combinations[1] are a major contributor to āma (sticky toxin) formation, and the list of diseases attributed to them take in all systems and […]

Cool inflammation with the ‘quick purge’ - The Ayurveda Practice · February 9, 2021 at 11:55

[…] ama (with the pre-purge diet and […]

Manage your channel blockers - The Ayurveda Practice · June 29, 2021 at 16:28

[…] when you have ama. If you have any digestive upset, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, loss of appetite, a sense of […]

Fasting - what does Ayurveda say? - The Ayurveda Practice · February 2, 2024 at 13:07

[…] Reducing treatment is needed when the body gets too heavy, too congested, has too much of the earth or water elements (e.g. kapha or sometimes pitta dosha) or has low digestive fire and āma (the sticky toxins lurking in the body which it cannot expel or use). Dosha in balance do not negatively affect health but when increased, can cause disease, as does āma. […]

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.