Fatigue, depression, cloudy thinking, low self-esteem.
Loss of appetite, body pain, anxiety, loss of libido, and low or no energy.
While you think that mental disorders or physical injuries might cause these symptoms, there could be something lurking under the surface that you have never considered before: A clogged up body filled with icky, gooey toxins which we call āma.
Āma is the “sludge” or “goop” that accumulates in the body when food is not digested completely or when we fail to routinely cleanse our bodies. It describes the Āyurvedic word for “toxic buildup” that wreaks havoc on our bodies and minds when left unchecked.
While it’s normal to have a little of bit of āma in your system, this stuff builds up over time and needs to be flushed out—pretty much like when your sink gets dirty with constant use until you give it a proper scrubbing.
Americans are chronically overloaded with āma for a number of reasons, including the following:
- Our diets are sh*t.
- We don’t sweat enough.
- We don’t detox regularly or we detox incorrectly.
- We live in polluted environments and generally treat Mother Nature like her sole job is to support every whim of ours, regardless of environmental or social impacts.
Even a “healthy” person who thinks they have a great diet and exercises regularly can have a buildup of toxins caused by poor digestion or poor food combination.
I should know. I suffered from chronic back pain that left me unable to walk for a week of every month for over 15 years that was caused by this stuff. I thought I was eating “healthy” and exercised a lot, but the truth is, I was eating improperly and overdoing it.
Fortunately, I now know better and I’m eager to share some common signs and symptoms of āma with you so you can know if it’s time for a cleanse.
“Why am I so tired?”
If low energy is your standard state and caffeine is the only way that helps you function, there is a good chance that your body is overloaded with toxins. How can we discern fatigue resulting from toxins versus other disorders? In Āyurveda, we use the concept of confluence, meaning we look for other signs and symptoms of toxic buildup in the body, which leads me to the next symptom.
“Is that a sweater on my tongue?”
Your tongue is a map of your internal organ health especially your digestive tract. A skilled practitioner can read your tongue the same way a skilled marketer can analyze your conversion rate. Luckily, a few basic skills can take you a long way in discerning what your tongue analytics are telling you.
If your tongue is pink, clean, and moist, then it probably means you are digesting your food pretty well. Take into consideration though that smoking and drinking can make your tongue appear clean. So if you smoke or drink, this rule might be less concrete.
However, if you have a coating on your tongue, especially a thick one, this means you aren’t digesting your food well. It also means that your intestines are lined up with undigested gunk, which is not good. This gunk inhibits the absorption of nutrients and causes problems down the line. It can also put you at risk for pushing undigested toxins deeper into your body, which can create conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and more diseases that are extremely painful.
Building good habits, like scraping your tongue, gets you in touch with looking at your tongue on a daily basis so you can quickly track changes.
“I just showered so why do I still stink?”
Feeling sticky or stinky even when you just showered is a major sign that something is wrong under the hood of your magnificent body. This means your toxic overload is great enough that it has overflowed from your gastrointestinal tract and entered your deeper tissues.
Body odor is a major sign of built-up toxins in the body. It’s clear that we have an epidemic of toxicity in this country when we look at the number of people who rely on deodorant just to feel comfortable in public.
“I know I should eat, but I’m not really hungry.”
Your body naturally rejects food when it has a buildup of toxins because both digestion and detoxing are energy intensive activities. Āma “dampens” your digestive fire because it is by nature sticky, heavy, and dull, thus making it difficult to burn. That said, low appetite is your body saying, “Hey, I have a lot of toxins that I’m already trying to deal with and can’t digest food well because of it.” Multitasking diminishes the quality of work we put forth and the same holds true for your bodily functions.
While total fasting isn’t good for most people, it is important to stick to light, easy to digest food when all of these symptoms are present. Avoid heavy fast-food, dairy, wheat, and meat. Also, if you have good strength and aren’t hungry, then don’t eat. It’s better to stoke a small fire with kindling than dump a log on it and put it out entirely.
“I’m so confused.”
Ever notice how when you’re sick, drunk, or even hungover, thinking is way more difficult? That’s because, in all of these situations, you are in a state of toxicity that makes your mind dull and even dumb. Toxic buildup in the body can make us feel confused, lethargic, and unable to make a decision. Why? Let’s investigate:
>> 90 percent of our serotonin is produced in the gut by commensal bacteria in exchange for their room and board.
>> Toxins in the gut inhibit healthy bacterial growth, potentially impacting our serotonin production.
>> Serotonin is a critical neurotransmitter that plays many important roles, including regulating mood and behavior, appetite, digestion, memory, sleep, and sexual functions and desires.
No wonder why we feel “brain fog” when our guts are clogged up.
“Please don’t go in there,” you say right after pooping.
If you are embarrassed to have people use the bathroom after you because your sh*t smells really bad, you have āma. Healthy poop is characterized by super low or no odor, a stool that floats and comes at regular intervals.
If your poop streaks the toilet, sinks, and smells strong, these are signs that your body is processing excessive loads of toxins, which means it’s time to take action before things get worse.
“My joints hurt.”
If you regularly experience pain in your joints that cannot be explained by injury, there is a good chance that āma has made it into your deep tissues. This is incredibly painful, characterized by more pain in the mornings and when it’s cloudy. Back pain counts here, something I can attest to firsthand.
This is the phase where you need to work with a health counselor to solve the problem. Trust me on this.
What to do if we are in fact “toxic.”
As we like to say in Āyurveda, it depends. If you have a little bit of toxic buildup, simple dietary changes like following Āyurvedic food, combining rules, and eating well-cooked and well-spiced food will take you a long way. Drinking warm water also really helps, and fresh ginger tea is even better.
It’s essential to work with a proficient Āyurvedic practitioner because how we detox should be based on the following factors:
>> Proper assessment of your level of āma in the body.
>> Your physical health.
>> What climate you live in/current season.
>> Identification of root cause.
Most westerners go about detoxing without preparing the body. There’s a difference between trying to scrub a burned baking sheet with cold water and soaking it in soapy, hot water until it comes off with ease.
We should be kind to our bodies so they will, in return, be kind to us.