What is Ama? What foods cause Ama?

“Ama” means partially or undigested food. Ama can cause toxic residue to build up in the gut. This residue harms the gut and can infiltrate and harm the body and its organs, contributing to many different chronic disease conditions.

Any food that is poorly digested creates a little bit of Ama. Ama builds up over months and years. Each individual person has a unique ability to digest certain foods as well as a propensity to poorly digest others. So while there are foods that typically cause Ama in all people, there is a separate list that depends on your unique body type as well as other factors like your inherited digestive enzymes (Agni) and cultural adaptations (Satmya).

Here are some of the foods and eating habit  that are typically cause Ama:

  • Eating too much or too often (going beyond our capaicty)
  • Foods consumed when you are emotionally disturbed
  • Eating while walking
  • Eating foods too quickly
  • Highly refined and processed foods
  • Most industrial foods
  • Very sweet foods (desserts etc)
  • Very fatty or heavy foods
  • Animal based foods, especially beef and pork
  • Foods containing man made chemicals (preservatives, colouring agents, pesticides etc)
  • Burned or overly cooked foods
  • A long term diet based on 100% raw foods

Much can be done to remove Ama from the gut and the body. However, miracles are few and far between. Don’t think that Ayurveda will save you from a life time of neglectful dietary habits. Even if Ayurveda can in theory reverse much of the damage that might have been done, it cannot do so without considerable investment of personal will power, time and money (if you intend to go down the clinical detox programs known as Pancha Karma).

Better than waiting until you are ill is to prevent Ama from every accumulating beyond a tolerable minimum. This can be best achieved by minimizing the above dietary and lifestyle factors, as well as incorporating routine manageable fasting and other simple practices that support the optimal function of your digestive fire (Agni) and promote the body to undergo regular but gentle phases of detox.

11 thoughts on “What is Ama? What foods cause Ama?

  1. Hi! I love your blog and look forward to reading it.
    I have a question. I have read that ghee and honey should not be consumed in equal quantities. I have also heard that a nourishing drink is milk, ghee and honey… I feel a little confused!
    Any thoughts?

    Thanks for you time and consideration,


    • Hi Lisa,

      Yes, a common question. The classical Ayurvedic texts specify that ghee and honey should not be mixed in equal amounts. So don’t be surprised to find recipes that require either 2:1 or 1:2 ratios or great of ghee to honey.

      Alex 🙂

  2. Do you actually know anyone who has lived just raw foods? When I was talking to jenny about this apparently there are people that live totally on fruits and some vegetables uncooked , nuts and seeds.

    Sent from my iPad


    • I have known some people who do live on raw foods 100% but I do not know of any scientific studies that take a significant number of people over a lifetime.

      There is increasing scientific evidence that supports the theory that the discovery and mastery of fire which lead to cooking drove the biological evolution of the human gut and brain, both of which are distinct from our ape relatives.

      But arguments for and against total raw foodism are abundant. The Ayurvedic texts along with the living tradition of clinical Ayurveda give reasons why raw foods can be problematic.

      Please see my other blogs about raw foods for more on this.


  3. Hi Alex, really like your blog. I understand that Ayurveda “frowns” on eating left-overs. Can’t argue with this. I live in America, which is basically a toxic food environment. I know it sounds extreme, but I have tried so hard to find restaurants and shops that prepare fresh wholesome food, and unfortunately, I have come up empty-handed. There are only one or two restaurants in the Boston area that I have found that use fresh, organic, whole foods, freshly-prepared but it’s not close to where I live. Everywhere else, it’s either refined food, old, improperly prepared, no vegetables, etc.

    So…do you have any suggestions, links, or other books to recommend regarding how to cook fresh food everyday in a minimum of time? What is your routine like? Many of your teachers are authors I really respect…what are their routines like? I really liked your one pot meal demo on Youtube, but it seems Ayurveda says that any food that is more than 4 hours old is going to generate ama. Are there exceptions to this rule in your experience? I have a very nice sub-zero fridge in my house that keeps food at low atmospheric pressure and constant 38F…Any and all information you would care to share, would be much appreciated!

    • Lots of questions!

      Personally, I apply a relaxed approach to left overs. If you can keep it to a minimum, like less of equal to 25%, then you are already doing a great job. Left overs are not poisonous, but they can create slightly more Ama (digestive born toxins) than freshly prepared foods. To compensate, keep the Doshas balanced and especially work at keeping Agni balanced. By incorporating intermittent fasting, such as 1-4 days per month depending on body type etc, you can keep Agni strong and cleanse Ama from the intestines. Ginger tea and similar preparations are also helpful if used regularly.

      As for my daily routine, i wrote a blog about that not so long ago – look for ‘dinacharya’.

      Cheers, Alex

      • Thanks for the reply Alex, and that blog post was very helpful. I have heard several Ayurvedic practitioners recommend that milk must always be bought raw (grass-fed and organic obviously) and then boiled, spiced, and taken in moderation. These same practitioners also claim that any milk that has been pasteurized (everything sold in supermarkets in the US) should be avoided, even if it is grass-fed, organic, and then properly boiled and spiced. I think this has to do with the fact that boiled/pasteurized milk must be consumed within 24 hours or discarded…very similar to eating leftovers…do you have a take on this?

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