BY Yale Breslin
For Dr. Alejandro Junger, it’s all about balance. He’s worked as both a trainer and a cardiologist and now spends his days educating people about The Clean Program – his 21-day cleanse that has the mantra of ‘resetting your body the right way’. Junger realized that while getting fit is certainly a ‘self-esteem’ booster, he learned that physical activity wasn’t the key to eliminating symptoms he was feeling like fatigue and depression. Here, Junger fills us in on his practice and why The Clean Program isn’t just a quick fix – it’s the road to a well-balanced lifestyle.
Can you tell me a little bit about the first time you met Amanda? I heard through the grapevine that she was your first client 20 or so years ago.
Some 20 years ago, as I was finishing my training as a cardiologist in New York, I came to Los Angeles to visit a friend of mine, Fernando Sulichin. He told me that a friend of his needed help with her daughter’s health. I of course agreed to meet his friend. That same day he introduced me to Amanda. She needed a doctor’s note for Atlanta’s school in order to avoid mandatory vaccination. Initially I thought Amanda was a crazy hippie chick. At the time I was convinced that Western medicine had all the answers, or would soon come up with them. I had never heard of anyone wanting to avoid his or her kid being vaccinated. But after talking to her for a while I soon realized she was far from crazy, so I helped her with what she needed, and we became friends. Amanda was my first exposure to an alternative way of thinking that later would transform my life and my way of practicing medicine.
You’ve also had a slew of previous jobs – including both a trainer and a cardiologist. How did these professions help culminate in your career in alternative medicine and practices?
When I was living in New York, training as a cardiologist, I got very sick. I visited three specialists, got diagnosed with severe allergies, irritable bowel syndrome and depression, and was prescribed 7 different medications to control the symptoms. I refused to take them and started to look for different solutions. One of the first things I did was go to a gym and hired a personal trainer. I chose one that had a six-pack himself and asked him to show me how to get one myself, and in the process I became an expert. Once I had my six-pack, everyone wanted me to teach them how to get one, so I started to train people on the side. But I soon realized that being physically fit did not necessarily mean being healthy. My search then took me to India where I was exposed to other modalities of healing. Once I returned to the United States, I found the concepts and practices of detoxification, and got rid of all my symptoms, so I became an expert in that. Soon, everyone was asking me to teach them how to get the same results that I had achieved through detox, and I ended up dedicating myself to that, and learning as much as I could about how to help people get healthy without medications.
You said the impetus for your change in lifestyle and diet happened when you first moved to New York City in 1990. It was around this time that you began to search for an alternative solution to your health problems. What different practices did you test out? Why did they/didn’t they work?
In Uruguay, where I am from, I lived a very healthy life by default. There were no supermarkets as we know them now and not too many processed foods. When I moved to New York my diet changed drastically, and now I understand that this was the reason I got so sick. But none of the specialists I visited asked me what I was eating. I had not really been taught about nutrition in medical school, so I was lost. I didn’t really understand what was making me so sick.
Getting fit helped my self-esteem but it did not resolve my symptoms. In India I tried many things, from ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, chiropractic, hands on healing to many others. They all helped somewhat but nothing resolved my symptoms completely. In my case, it wasn’t until I completed a good detox program at the ‘We Care Spa’ that my symptoms resolved completely. This was what opened my mind to the powerful tools I use today to help so many people, detoxification being one of them.
Your findings are presented in CLEAN – your debut book. Can you summarize the concept for us – as I know it applies to the toxicity of our planet.
In my first book I describe how I found the concepts and practices of cleansing and detox. I describe in detail how the toxins we are exposed to affect our health and I outline a 21-day program to get our bodies into detox mode and fully support it through the process. The air we breathe, the water we drink and shower with, the cosmetics we use, the household products we buy and mostly the foods that we eat are loaded with chemicals that once in our bloodstream block all kinds of molecular functions and create dysfunctions. The Clean Program will help your body restore its ability to heal itself.
There are many misconceptions about cleanses. Regardless of the practice (master cleanse, juice cleanse, detox etc…) what are some things that people should always consider when looking to clean their slate?
Different cleanses work best in different situations and for different amounts of time. Water fasting, The Master Cleanse and juice only programs are very intense ways of detoxing. They are too intense for the average American to do while living a busy life. They are best when used by people that are already relatively clean and in a spa kind of venue. The Clean Program is designed for the average person to do while living in the city during busy times. It is safer and goes deeper because it can be tolerated well for longer periods of time.
Who were your first educators about alternative health and diet? What is it that you learned from these people? What did they teach you?
There are so many that it is impossible to write about. I learned from many practitioners along the way and from many books. But the strongest influence was by The Institute of Functional Medicine which scientifically and medically explains how all these other modalities work, and has lots of research to back it up. Visit their website at www.functionalmedicine.org
I always like asking people who they deem their mentors – those people who helped shape you (in some way) for the better. In your opinion, who you do consider these figures in your life? Why?
My father was my first – he taught me to be honest, humble and to work hard for what I want. He instilled in me the belief that I can do anything that I put my mind to. My friend Fernando Sulichin taught me how to think outside the box in simple and complex life situations, and that even the most seemingly impossible to solve problems have a solution, often much simpler than I could imagine.
My first cardiology teacher, Dr. Rony Shimony taught me how to be a compassionate doctor. My meditation teacher who commanded me not to worry and not to worry and who initiated me into meditation as a way to achieve her commands. Susana Belen, founder of We Care, who taught me about cleansing and detoxification. Jeffrey Bland, the father of functional medicine who opened a world of scientific understanding of how ‘alternative’ medicine works. My kids who taught me about unconditional love, and my wife who teaches me by example how to live in a way that I intellectually know is the way, but not always practice myself.
Some people view cleanses as a ‘quick fix’. What are some tools we can bring into our lives to help live a cleaner, healthier lifestyle?
Cleanses are not a quick fix, they are a jumpstart into a healthier life. But if you finish it and go back to what you were eating and doing before, it’s like taking a shower and then jumping in the mud, quite useless in the long term. Today, if you want to be healthier and live longer, it is more important to know what NOT TO EAT, then to know WHAT TO EAT. When in doubt, eat from the elimination diet and you have a big chance of your health issues resolving before your doctor’s appointment. Obviously, there are other aspects, such as exercise, rest, fun and having a community and a sense of purpose in life. Serving others is a great way to start if you don’t yet know your purpose.
Anyone who I’ve spoken to raves about your cleanse. What is it about your approach that you find differs from others available?
Most other programs are based on true concepts, sometimes thousands of years old, but they are not adapted to modern life and our current needs. The Clean Program was created after years of research and trial and error, combining the ideas of many programs that I studied and tried myself, and is based on my medical understanding and experience. Most of all, you just can’t argue with results, and most people have mind blowing results. It just works…
Meditation is also something I’m curious about. What benefits have you found from your meditative practices? What are some tools you utilize to ‘zone out’?
Meditation is not zoning out, it is zoning in. In, beyond your thinking mind, that consumes most of people’s attention today. The benefits are widely known, for thousands of years. I use many different techniques, from different schools, such as following my breath with my attention, mantra repetition, sensing my body, and even meditation in action, which is doing the simplest things totally mindfully.
The issue of ‘super foods’ is an ongoing topic – and is certainly a constant buzzword. What are some foods that have amazing health benefits – those culinary items we may not be aware of?
Green leafy veggies are amazing, they provide so many of the nutrients and fiber that our bodies need, they are the royal family of detox foods, and kale is king. But there are so many nutrient rich foods, such as spirulina, chlorella, fermented foods, garlic, olive oil, cruciferous vegetables, and the list goes on and on.
Do you have any indulgences? If so – what are they?
I am an ice cream addict; every now and then I overdose on it. I pay the price though, but I keep doing it. Less often now than before, but I think I will never quit….
There’s also an influx of news stories relating to the term ‘mindfulness’ – a word that is still being defined. What does this term mean to you?
Yes, this is a confusing word. To me it basically boils down to being fully present. When one is fully present, the side effect is peace, which is what we are all looking for.
We have 3 copies of Dr. Junger’s new book, Clean Gut, to give away! Click here to find out how you can win!