It’s been a few years since I last had a real back-to-school moment, but August still feels like the Sunday of the months. The promise (or threat?) of fall seems like the perfect opportunity for a final hoorah followed by a serious get-your-act-together reset — especially with my wellness routines. In early August, I was afflicted with a common summer syndrome: a combination of alcohol-induced puffiness, exhaustion, and some seriously dull skin. It’d been a summer of pure indulgence up to that point, and some kind of intervention was necessary. Ultimately, it came in the form of Dr. Alejandro Junger’s cult-favorite Clean Program 7-day cleanse, designed to reset and jumpstart the body.
A favorite of health-conscious celebrities like Meghan Markle and Gwyneth Paltrow, the Clean 7 Kit is a combination of functional medicine, Ayurveda, and intermittent fasting for a detoxifying (yet still nutritious) week-long cleanse, perfect for anyone looking to hit the edit-undo button on their own bodies. The program recently underwent a slight update in which the system was recalibrated to focus more on what Dr. Junger describes as the seven systems of the body: assimilation, defense, transport, biotransformation, energy, communication, and structure. “This is a way of thinking about the body that breaks down what purpose each system serves and how they interact. When all the systems are balanced, we can achieve wellness,” he explains to TZR. “We have integrated these elements into our lineup of products and educational resources to help people understand their own body systems a little better.”
Why Try A Cleanse?
Considering this was my first ever cleanse (if you don’t count a seriously ill-advised brush with the infamous Master Cleanse just before senior prom), it was critical to learn why there was so much hype surrounding cleanses in general, straight from the expert. Dr. Junger tells me that, as you’d expect, cleanses aid in mainlining specific nutrients to our bodily tissues and organs while simultaneously helping excrete existing toxins. “The environment is increasing in human-made toxins, and due to individual biochemistry, not everyone has the same ability to rid them from the body easily,” he says, adding that the Cleanse’s nutrients assist in that process. A cleanse can be started at any time, though as with any major change to your diet, it’s always wise to inform your personal doctor before kicking it off.
Dr. Junger phrases it best with a metaphor: “Regular cleanses are like getting a tune-up for your car,” he says. “It helps the machine run better. And when you follow that up with premium gas (a diet based on whole foods, clean water, proper supplementation, good sleep, and exercise), your ‘machine’ will keep running for a long time without being bogged down by too much illness or disease.”
How Clean 7 Works
For Clean 7 in particular, the cleanse is centered around nutrition, not just elimination (though there are plenty of herbs included for that, too.) Dr. Junger lists a blend of Ayurvedic herbs folded into the system for optimal liver and kidney support, along with inflammation-fighting plants like turmeric in all its forms, ginger, and “two forms of pepper fruit to optimize the bioavailability of this precious herb.” Dr. Junger says the team considers it crucial to use the best traditional Ayurvedic herbs in combination with Western-acknowledged nutritional science, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to help boost the metabolism and reboot internal systems. “It’s not only supplying the necessary agents,” he explains, “but applying them in a systematic way throughout the day.”
In practice, that’s all far easier than it sounds. Clean 7 arrives neatly packaged in a compact, rectangular box with the cleanse’s full instructional schedule printed on the lid for easy reference. Basically, Clean 7 uses a combination of tulsi teas, individually-packaged supplements, and pre-mixed shake powders over the course of the day, pre-determined by the schedule. Unlike what many think of when they hear “cleanse”, there is solid food involved here — it’s just recommended that you stick to the most nutritious whole foods (think fish, leafy greens, berries, and brown rice) in lieu of things like red meat, gluten, dairy, and processed sugar. Of course, there’s no alcohol, soda, or — gulp — caffeine permitted on the cleanse. The first two I knew would be a snap, but the idea of getting through the workday without coffee or some chemical-laden energy drink filled me with dread. As a replacement, Dr. Junger encourages proper water hydration, which he says is key for eliminating toxins through urine and sweat. “If people are exercising, or if the weather is warm, it’s even more important to ensure adequate intake,” he explains. “Most people forget this very basic foundational practice of health.”
For someone who’s new to the wonderful world of cleanses, the Clean 7 is an ideal choice. A week is much more manageable and easier to get through than longer programs, including Dr. Junger’s 21-Day Program. The pre-packaged shake powders typically start and end the day on the cleanse’s calendar — and unmodified, they taste straight-up awful. Luckily, it’s well within the cleanse’s guidelines (actually, it’s encouraged) to add in some taste-boosting accouterment: coconut milk, almond butter, fresh spinach, and a handful of berries completely transformed the shake into a delicious, not-too-thick smoothie that was a true joy to consume. The tulsi tea was great too, though it smells very bitter — even if you don’t like the taste, the consistency is thin enough that you can get through it. I also genuinely appreciated the easy-to-follow guidelines, printed on the box’s lid and again in more detail on the website. The parameters felt cozy and safe, and knowing your rules and limits down to the letter makes them easier to follow.
But oh, the caffeine. Far and away the biggest struggle was sticking to the coffee ban, and anyone who’s tried a break from caffeine can relate. Headaches, anxiety, and lack of focus became huge issues for me, but began subsiding around day five. What I thought would be the second biggest struggle? Trying to not instantly recontaminate my body with an extra-large Lemon Drop Bang the second the cleanse was over. But the thing about Clean 7 was I didn’t want to ruin my progress, maybe for the first time ever — my body felt like it was returning to a baseline, and I began to feel the immediate effects of whatever I put into it: protein, water, vegetables, and fruit. Prior to the cleanse, it’s almost like I was legitimately numb to what was happening internally.
For the purely result-driven out there, yes, I did drop several pounds over the course of the week. My under eye hollows, which expand and contract with my water intake, began to fill out, and I logged some of the best sleep of my entire year, earning me an elusive 90th percentile score on my FitBit’s sleep tracker. But more than anything, most importantly, my first cleanse taught me the power of mindful consumption. I finally understood firsthand how something like a grilled chicken breast could impact my energy levels and moods — almost like I was in a video game, powering up with every bowl of sautéed spinach I downed.
The Bottom Line
The program took all the guesswork out of a detoxifying reset, something I’d never be able to assemble on my own. Clean 7 was transformative for me, both in body and mind, but especially with my mentality surrounding food. I’ve never been able to get a handle on that whole “you are what you eat” thing until I was able to slow down and take the time to truly focus both on what I’m eating and how that food makes me feel — and that’s exactly how Dr. Junger designed it, too. “A cleanse is an opportunity to get rid of what is no longer serving us, reset, and break bad habits,” he says. “It can be an emotional or even a spiritual experience for some, letting go and releasing old patterns and waste can feel really good.” Reset and recharged, I’m ready for whatever September holds.