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Lifting the Festive Fog
n a ll the Ne w Year inspiration you may
have made s ome bold resolution s to
‘get healthy’ or ‘lose weight’.... but as
you come down from the holiday high
and face real life again, the way forward to
achieve these goals may not seem so clear and
motivation may be seriously lacking. This is
partly because choosing a get healthy/lose
weight path when there is so much on offer
can be difficult. But it is also because your
body and mind are litera lly in a post-fe stive
fog. And in a fog, nothing is clear!
But my friends, there is no need to panic .
All you need to do is lift the fog. From an
Ayurvedic perspective, this fog has a name
and it is called ‘Ama’. It refers to undigested
or poorly digested food waste, accumulated
toxins ta ken in from the environment and
wa s te material s in the body that haven’t been
properly eliminated. It is a n inevitable visitor
at this time of year due to our inability
to completely digest the excesses of the
Ama is not an imaginary substance.
It is real and tangible. You can see it, feel
it and smell it in your body. It is a thick,
heavy, sticky, stinky substance... a little
like old mucous or fermented clag glue (I
know bec ause I’ve seen it!). This charming
substanc e ac cumulate s in our digestive tract
January has arrived and along with it, festive
season recovery mode.
a nd is usually burnt up by our digestive
fire. But when our digestion is imbalanced
or we’ve put it under undue stress for a ny
length of time, our Ama load can become
too much to handle. R ather than staying in
the digestive tract, it can overflow into the
channels and tissues of the body, hampering
cellular nutrition a nd waste disposal and
cau sing blockage s and infla mmation.
Ayurveda teaches that this accumulation
and movement of Ama is the root cause
of all disease, from the common cold to
cancer. It is also the main cause of weight
gain. So developing the skill of noticing
when Ama has increased in our bodies and
ta king measure s to help eliminate it is one
of the best preventative medicine a nd weight
maintenance techniques we can adopt in our
lives. It won’t just lift the fog, it will actually
help us achieve those New Year goals and
sustain them, so we ne ver have to ma ke
The symptoms of Ama in the body are
many but they include...
• a thick coating on your tongue in the
• bad breat h
• bad/strong smelling body odour, urine and
• general aches and pains, especially in your
• reg ula r symptoms of indigestion (e.g .
burning sen sations or reflux, heaviness ,
gas, bloating or pain a fter eating)
• regula r disturbed appetite (e.g . a low/dull
appetite or very changeable appetite)
• feeling weak, like all the strength ha s been
sapped out of your muscles and feeling
tired and letha rgic despite plenty of sleep.
But Ama doe sn’t just affect the body,
it also affects the mind so other symptoms
• feeling foggy in the head, particularly
behind the eyes
• having difficulty making decisions
• a lack of attention
• a genera l la ck of enthusia sm or mild
depression and irritability.
Sound familiar? Although it doesn’t
have an exa ct term for it, modern
medicine recognises A ma as well. Excess
c holesterol, free radicals, advanced glycation
endproducts (AGEs), transfatty acids ,
uric acid and homocystein are all forms of
Ama. It also acknowledges accumulated
metabolic wastes as the root cause of a
number of diseases , including atheros clerosis
(blockage of the arteries due to problems
with cholesterol metab olism), g allstone s
(from sludgy bile) , gouty arthritis (due
to excess uric acid from improper protein
metabolism), kidney stones (from a build up
of oxalic acid or calcium) and Alzheimer’s
(accumulated amyloid plaques are thought
to contribute to the degradation of neuron s) .
Western Medicine a lso credits inflammation
a s a key underlying factor in many chronic
diseases but does not, as yet, address what
causes the inflammation in the first place. (1)
So what do we do about all this Ama?
What we shouldn’t do is give ourselve s a
hard time or get all anxious about our Ama
load. It is an inevitable consequence of all
the fun we’ve just had and is reasonably
e a sily antidoted with a little common sense.
Ayur vedic common sen se always come s
down to one rule, Like Increases Like. This
means , if we introduce certain qualities into
our body through our senses these qualities
will increase in our body. It also means if we
have an excess of certain qualities in our body,
we simply need to apply the opposite qualities
to antidote the situation and return to balance .
Our post festive season Ama fog has
come about through three main actions that
a re harmful to digestion :
Over eating (and overdrinking): if we
overeat at every meal and start eating before
our previous meal has been digested, our
digestion has a hard time keeping up.
Eating too much heavy food: meat, eggs,
bread, pa sta , milk, chee se, cream, icecream
and nuts are a ll heavy and difficult to digest
and, when eaten in excess, put a big strain on
Eating too many different foods at once :
our digestion prefers simplicity and ca n
be over whelmed by smorgasbord, cocktail
party or three cours e mea l situations where
we’re eating loads of different foods at onc e.
To break this down further, the three
qualities we are suffering from at this time of
year a re e xcess, heaviness and complexity.
What are the opposite qualities to these?
Moderation, lightness and simplicity. So
this is the medicine. Make s sense, right?!
Rather than going on some chemist-
bought detox program, c abbage soup diet,
juic e fa st or colonic irrigation extravag anz a
(or whate ver other e xtreme approaches are
out there), you just need to eat moderate
a mounts of light, simple foods for a few
weeks and you’ll burn up some excess Ama,
rekindle your digestive fire and feel better
again in no time. If you need to, you’ll
probably also lose a little weight.
The problem with more e xtreme
approache s is that although they may detox
your sy stem, they al so generally disrupt your
digestion. And an imbalanced digestive fire
soon leads to the creation of more Ama. So you
want to gently detox while looking after your
Agni at the same time, not thrashing it further.
Below are ten simple dieta ry and lifestyle
guidelines you can follow to reduce Ama
in your body and rekindle your digestive
fire, a long with a recipe for a delicious fog-
lifting mea l!
Happy New Year !
Guidelines for Reducing Ama
& Improving Digestion...
• Relax as much as possible when eating.
Choosing a pleasant environment a nd
taking three deep breaths at the beginning
of the meal can help.
• Try to eat meals at a similar time each
day; your digestive fire is strengthened by
regularity and weakened by irregularity.
• Begin the day with a ginger, lemon a nd
honey tea before eating breakfast; add
1⁄4 tsp fresh grated ginger to boiled water
along with a squeeze of lemon and a tsp of
good quality honey.
‘It is also the main cause
of weight gain.’
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