Dr. Alejandro Junger
Physician and Author
Dr Alejandro Junger is the New York Times-bestselling author of Clean and Clean Gut. He completed his training in internal medicine at New York University Downtown Hospital and his fellowship in cardiology at Lenox Hill Hospital. After his medical training, he studied Eastern medicine in India. Dr. Junger is also the founder of Clean, a wellness company that helps people live healthier lives by guiding them through targeted programs.
Dr. Junger created Clean to help improve his own health. Through his travels around the world, he learned about the power of cleansing firsthand. The Clean program is loved and supported by tens of thousands of people, including such famous faces as Marianne Williamson, Dr. Mark Hyman, and Rachel Roy.
I first heard about The Clean program about two years ago. The 21-day program was the first cleanse I ever completed. I felt incredible afterward and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m honored to chat with Dr. Junger and share his work.
What is your well-being aha moment?
I’ve had so many that I wouldn’t know where to start. But more important than my well-being aha moment was my getting sick aha moment. That is when everything changed for me. I was in New York finishing my training as a cardiologist when I visited three specialists for a number of symptoms that I was suffering from. Within a few hours, I was diagnosed with severe allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression, and I was given seven prescription medications in order to be able to function. This did not make sense to me. Instinctively, I refused to take this approach, and suddenly I had the aha moment I was referring to. I realized that I was doing the same with my patients. And so were all my colleagues with their patients.
In fact, my aha moment was that the system of medicine I was trained in encouraged this “pill for an ill” approach. Medicine itself was “sick.” So I had to find another plan….
Describe your perfect day of being well.
Being well for me includes not only the sense that my body is working optimally, that my energy levels are good, that my digestion is seamless, but also that my mind is at ease and my “state” in general is present and peaceful.
What’s in your fridge right now?
Lots of organic vegetables and fruit. Variety is a staple in my fridge. I have micro greens (kale, broccoli sprouts); lettuces; carrots; peppers; zucchinis; cucumbers; tomatoes; sunflower sprouts; strawberries; blueberries; almond milk; dates; a roasted chicken; sugar-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free cake; and baby coconuts.
The clean program is really unique and very easy. The fact that you actually eat one full meal a day as well as shakes may come as a surprise to many people who think that a cleanse means juices. Can you explain what the 21-day and 7-day cleanse are all about?
I learned about cleansing and detox at a holistic spa, the We Care Spa in Palm Springs, where the program only includes juices. I saw profound results and benefits in so many people. When I started putting people on cleanses, I started with juice cleanses as well. Whenever I sent patients to the spa, they would mostly do great. But not everyone was able to take time off, or spend the money, so I had lots of people start juice cleanses while they were running around their busy lives in the city. And these people did not do as well. So I had to find a way to tone it down, to equalize the intensity of the process so that people would tolerate and complete it. That is when I learned to allow a meal at lunch. And that did the trick. The full cleanse is 21 days of shake for breakfast, solid meal and shake for dinner, plus some supplements with every meal. The 7-day program is just a taste of the full program if you are doing it for the first time, or a great way to jump back on the health wagon after a few days of indulging.
Your shakes are processed; why is that better than whole foods?
Who said that they were better? Whole foods are always better than anything processed, even if they are natural ingredients and without any toxic chemicals. But not everyone can take the time to go shopping and prepare themselves the shakes and smoothies from whole foods. That is when the packaged shakes come in handy. My shakes are not better than whole foods, but they are much better than not doing anything because of lack of time.
What is the difference between true hunger and emotional hunger?
In my understanding, true hunger happens when the body is in need of food. Emotional hunger comes as a desire to eat to mask certain feelings. Most of us don’t know what true hunger feels like. We have been responding to emotional hunger for years, and we have gotten so used to eating like this that we don’t even question the feeling any more. When it comes, we just eat.
The Clean program is there to help support you through any challenges, with no expiration date. How important is this support when completing the cleanse?
Very important. This is the main reason why the program has been so successful. So many people quit because something happens during the cleanse that they don’t understand. Our support team guides people through all the way until completion.
Why should someone consider a cleanse?
We live in a toxic world, and we live toxic lifestyles that leave the body with a backload of toxins that need the optimal conditions for the body to take care of. The clean program creates the right conditions for the body to do what it tries to do most of the time, but can’t because we mostly work against it. A simple example of what I mean is the fact that we are eating, and therefore digesting, most of the day. The digestive processes consumes a lot of our energy and slow down the detox processes in the body. It takes breaking this habit of three meals a day, which most people consider just normal, for the body to catch up with the detox work.
What’s your favorite workout?
Running long distances on a beach and jumping in the water at the end!
What’s your favorite health food/meal?
Salads. I make super salads with lots of veggies but also elaborate dressings, including olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon, sea salt, nutritional yeast, spirulina, and other powdered superfoods, such as maca, lucuma, acai, aloe, etc.
What superpower would you like to have for a day?
Healing with my touch. I would go on a healing spree, starting in children’s hospitals, touching everyone and seeing them run back to their families.
What’s the one vice you will never give up?
Ice cream, even though I pay a price for eating it (sneezing, bloating).
Who is your mentor or hero(ine)?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland, the father of Functional Medicine, is certainly at the top of my hero list.
How do you live your Vie (life/passion)?
My work is my passion. And I don’t even know when my work stops and the rest starts. I am always working, and it never feels like work.
What do you want to be remembered for?
As a great husband and father, and someone that did his best to help others feel better.
What charity or cause is close to your heart?
I have a friend I went to medical school with; after graduating as a doctor, he studied to be a Catholic priest. He opened an orphanage in Uruguay. It is my intention to help him take it to its highest potential. I know this person so well that I trust every penny I give him goes to help people, and doesn’t end up paying anyone’s salary or perks, which happens with so many charitable organizations.
How do you keep yourself motivated to be healthy?
I want to be around for my wife and kids. If that doesn’t do it, nothing will.
What words of wisdom do you have to offer?
If you want to be at peace, you can start by acting as if you already were. The main thing I notice in the people who are at peace, is that they don’t complain. So try not to complain, about anything. It is hard, but so worth it.