Anna Visha – When Food Turns Toxic: Causes, Symptoms

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S


Food can turn toxic when toxic ingredients are used, when food is wrongly processed or when the food is consumed in a wrong combination, in a wrong method. 

Food is one among the three supporting pillars of life, as per Ayurveda. The other two are – sleep and celibacy. These there are called Traya Upastambha. Food is said to be prana i.e. life element, since it provides life and energy to every cell of the body. The food performs the function of  supporting and protecting the body. All the tissues which support and protect the body are the products of proper nutrition which is derived from the food.

But when the same food is not digested and accepted by the body, it becomes a poison to the system and troubles the body to the core. Such improperly digested food which takes the form of dangerous poison in the body is called anna visha.
Anna visha is often used as a synonym of ama.
Related reading – Derivation, meaning and definition of ama

Causes of Anna Visha

Causes of Anna Visha – Food derived toxins
The primary cause for the formation of food derived toxins is improper digestion of food. Improper digestion of food takes place due to the weakness of agni or metabolic fire situated in the stomach and intestines.

But what causes weakness of the digestive fire and what causes improper digestion?
Below mentioned are the etiological factors of anna visha –
Abhojanaad – starvation
Ajeerna bhojanaad – eating the food even when the previously taken food has not been digested properly
Adhika bhojanaad – excessive consumption of food beyond one’s capacity
Vishama ashanaat – food taken with the ingredients of the diet mixed in undesired and odd proportions
Asaatmya bhojana – intake of incompatible foods which do not suit one’s constitution of body.
Guru bhojana – excessive intake of foods which are heavy to digest.
Sheeta bhojana – excessive consumption of foods which are cold in nature, cold touch and cold potency
Ati ruksha bhojana – consumption in excess of foods which are very dry in nature
Ati sandushta bhojana – consumption of contaminated foods
Virechana), vamana, sneha vibhramaad – complications occurring due to faulty administration of purgation, emesis and or oleation treatments
Vyadhi karshanat – being debilitated from serious and chronic ailments
Desha vaishamyaad – calamity or diversity of land
Kala vaishamyaad – abnormal variations of time
Rutu vaishamyaad – calamity or diversity of seasons, abnormal seasonal variations
Vega vidharanaat – forcible withholding of natural body urges

Weakening of Agni

Weakening of agni and formation of Anna Visha
The above said causative factors weaken the digestive fire. This weakened digestive fire will lose its capacity to digest the food. As a result even the lightest and easily digestible food is also not digested properly by the weakened fire. The undigested food remains in the stomach for a longer time and undergoes decaying. The decayed food left over in the stomach attains the form of poisonous material which would be non-conducive and harmful to the body. Such food will be called toxic food i.e. anna visha.

Anna Visha Symptoms

  • Vishtamba – obstruction of free elimination of stools.
  • Sadana – exhaustion
  • Shiro ruk – headache
  • Murcha – unconsciousness
  • Bhrama – giddiness
  • Prushta graham – back pain
  • Kati graham – gripping pain in the lower back region, lumbar pain, pelvic pain
  • Jrumbha – yawning
  • Angamarda – pain in the body parts with a feel as if someone is beating you
  • Trishna – severe thirst
  • Jwara – fever
  • Chhardi – vomiting
  • Pravahanam – straining during defecation, dysentery
  • Arochaka – tastelessness
  • Avipaka – indigestion of food

The condition of annavisha having the above mentioned symptoms is said to be dreadful for health.

Other conditions causing anna visha
When one happens to consume food in the presence of the below mentioned conditions, ama dosha is formed. This ama dosha leads to anna visha which causes severe dreadful and life threatening symptoms similar to the symptoms produced on consuming  poison. Those conditions are –

  • Viruddha ashana – mutually incompatible foods
  • Adhyashana – consumption of food even before the previously taken food is digested
  • Ajeerna – taking food while having indigestion
  • Sama ashana – taking equal quantities of good and bad foods
  • Vishama ashana – taking food in large or less quantities and untimely food
  • Pramita ashana – having selective diet which leads to food imbalances
  • Ati ashana – consumption of food in excessive quantity

When the food is taken in the above said conditions, the food becomes poisonous and takes away the life.

Fate of Anna Visha

The fermented food which has assumed the form of poison can come into contact with doshas,  tissues or excreta. The toxins mixed with body elements will produce dreadful symptoms based on the amalgamation.


Need of having the knowledge of Anna Visha
The knowledge of toxins derived from improper digestion of food will help in understanding its causes. This will help in avoiding the improper and erratic patterns of food consumption hence enabling the gut fire to digest the food promptly. This will prevent the formation of food induced toxins and the dreadful diseases caused by them.
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