Ten Ways to Avert Ama Build-Up Over the Holidays

Ama, the toxic waste-product of digestion, can accumulate any time of the year. But there is no better time for this malicious substance to grow than during the holidays, when we tend to overeat, consume a lot of sweets, and eat at irregular times. Ama clogs the channels of the body and weakens the immune system. If you experience stiffness in your joints, constipation, cold, flu or weight gain, ama is the most likely culprit. Fortunately, ayurveda has a very powerful tool for conquering ama: agni. If you keep your agni, or digestive fire, strong, your body will be able to digest the food you eat without creating toxic by-products. The following advice from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians will help you stay healthy over the holidays.

1. Eat Your Main Meal at Noon

Instead of a big late-afternoon meal or a heavy dinner, try to have your main meal between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m., when the digestive fire is the strongest. Eating a big dinner will not only tax your digestive system, but can disrupt your sleep. To avoid the discomfort of dinner sitting in your stomach still undigested by the time you go to sleep, eat a light dinner three hours before your bedtime.

2. Keep Your Mealtimes Regular

Don't try to correct your overeating by missing a meal. Skipping meals will disrupt and weaken your agni. Eat at least three times a day around the same time of the day. Also avoid eating when your previous meal is not digested. Give your body at least three hours to finish digesting a meal before you eat again. An afternoon snack is fine as long as you keep it small and light. A piece of fresh fruit, dried fruits or soaked nuts should be enough to give you energy until dinner.

3. Don't Overeat

This advice might be the hardest to follow, but it is very important. Always eat according to your hunger level. Your body knows how much food it can digest — you just have to listen to it. Take smaller portions, and don't go for seconds if you are not hungry any more. Eat to only 3/4 of your capacity. "Even good food can create ama in excessive quantities," warn ayurvedic experts.

4. Use Natural Digestive Aids

If you happen to occasionally break one of the above rules, there are other ways to improve your agni. If you are not hungry, increase your appetite by sipping warm water, ginger water or cumin tea. You can also get your gastric juices flowing by eating a thin slice of fresh ginger with a pinch of salt. These digestive aids may not be available when you are not eating at home, so carry Maharishi Ayurveda Herbal Di-Gest supplement with you and take one or two tablets before meals.

5. Avoid Agni-Destroying Foods

Some people say certain foods taste better the next day, but ayurveda does not recommend that you eat leftovers. Ayurveda recommends eating freshly-prepared foods, because they are easier to digest and contain more prana, or life. In addition to leftovers, stay away from heavy, deep-fried foods, and cold foods and drinks. They diminish your agni and contribute to the accumulation of ama.

6. Watch the Sweets

This is another area where moderation will save you from stomach aches and weight gain. If you have a sweet tooth, eat homemade pies and cookies instead of "junk" sweets. The latter usually contain preservatives, artificial flavors and colors which are toxins for the body and will turn into ama right away. They also lack nutrients and prana, and are heavy to digest. Commercial pastries and cakes also tend to contain more sugar and fat than what your body needs.

7. Eat All Six Tastes

Sweet might be your favorite taste, but don't eat just sweets. Every meal should contain all six tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Use spices to include all the tastes and to enhance flavor. When your meal contains all six tastes, you will feel more satisfied and crave less sweets. The Maharishi Ayurveda Churnas are excellent spice mixes that include all the six tastes and also improve digestion.

8. Balance Your Meals

In addition to all the tastes, your meals need to include a balanced combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat. If you eat only carbohydrates, your blood sugar will rise quickly but will leave you fatigued later. Leaving out fats is also a common mistake. Healthy fats such as olive oil and ghee are essential for carrying the nutrients to your cells. Ayurvedically, varied foods and menus supply all the nutrients necessary for nourishing the seven dhatus, or body tissues.

9. Exercise

Winter is a good time to nourish your body and to exercise. Regular exercise, at least half an hour a day, will not only keep the extra pounds off but will improve your agni and reduce ama. A short walk after lunch, for example, is a great way to get your digestion going. Practice yoga asanas to help digestion.

10. Pay Attention to Your Routine

Being regular is important not only for mealtimes but for your daily routine as well. Your elimination, bedtime and working habits should all be ayurvedically appropriate — ojas-enhancing — in order to keep your immune system strong and your body ama-free.

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.