The world of the detox is vast and complicated. You'll find everything from snake oil salesmen selling sugar pills to multivitamin regimens to juice cleanses and more. Navigating this world is complex enough that it's no surprise many people want someone to assist them.
That's where a green detox program comes in.
A program, as the name implies, is more than just a bottle of supplements and some instructions. It's a full plan, including a wide range of beneficial and supplemental elements. Let's talk about it!
Two Kinds of Green Detox Programs
First up, when we talk about a green detox program, there are two different "levels" of program we're referring to.
The first kind of green detox program is the in-home program. Think of it like a detailed cleanse and exercise plan. These programs include a number of different elements: they have dietary plans, supplements, exercise regimens to follow, and dedicated periods of relaxation and meditation to help it all work.
This first sort of program can be as minimal or as all-consuming as you want it to be. There are some programs that are little more than a couple of meal replacements and an exercise video you're meant to use every day. Others are more complete schedules, where you dedicated hours or entire days to it, for a week or more.
Additionally, some of these "at home" programs are meant to be long-term adjustments, but most of them are short-term detox plans. They generally last for anywhere from three days to two weeks, though there are outliers on both sides. Really, it all comes down to how harsh the detox is on your body, how much time it takes up each day, and how much of your normal life you can continue to live while participating.
The second kind is the "inpatient" style program. These are, in some ways, similar to going to rehab for drug or alcohol abuse, except the "drug" you're detoxing from is the assortment of sugars, processed ingredients, and environmental toxins you're exposed to in your daily life.
These programs typically involve spending a week or two at a retreat, where everything is taken care of for you. They prepare your meals – typically a green juice – and they guide you through a variety of exercises, meditative experiences, and rest times.
Obviously, one of the biggest benefits and biggest drawbacks to this kind of detox program is the fact that you need the time to do it. If you don't have at least four or five days to dedicate to such a program, you're not going to get as much benefit out of it, if you get any at all. A good cleanse takes time to work, after all.
These kinds of programs can also be quite expensive. In addition to the daily rates a retreat charges, you will also need to be able to afford the time off to visit one, as well as the travel to reach a retreat location. These retreats tend to be located in very beautiful areas free of pollution, but that means traveling to places like Thailand or Turkey as often as not.
What a Green Detox Program Includes
So what does a green detox program include, specifically? Well, the precise diet and activities will depend on the program you've chosen and your own specific needs.
At the very low end, the at home programs tend to be little more than a meal replacement shake that focuses on green vegetables and supplements. They may also include instructions on intermittent fasting or a similar dietary program to help you cleanse.
A step up from that level, we've found programs that include additional supplements, diuretics, and additives to help your body purge and process without leading to a nutrient deficiency.
Some of these programs also include exercise plans to go along with their dietary changes. We've seen some that have yoga videos attached, some that have more high impact exercise plans, and some that become full lifestyles of mixed working out and dietary planning. There's a wide range available here, and you can also put together one of your own.
As far as the retreat/resort style detox programs go, they vary as wildly as the retreats you can visit. Some of them are basically just resorts you can visit for a few days, very similar to a simple vacation, except they control what you can eat while you're there.
At the high end, you have exotic retreats that include a wide range of benefits. For example, we've seen green detox retreats that include supplement and diet scheduling with carefully calculated nutritional loads, interspersed with yoga and exercise sessions, relaxation activities, spa treatments, and exotic therapies like biophoton and vibration therapy.
One thing to note here is that some of these therapies are, to put it bluntly, nonsense. Vibrations will feel good and have a role for loosening up muscles, but they aren't going to cure a bacterial infection or cancer.
That said, a large part of these retreats is about relaxing and resetting your body. They help break you out of bad dietary and lifestyle habits, give you a relaxing experience, and help de-stress so you can tackle your normal life with renewed energy and vigor.
The Benefits of a Green Detox Program
So what are the benefits of a green detox program? Those, too, vary depending on the level of the program you're pursuing.
All green detox programs, from the basic nutritional packets to the resort trips, have some shared benefits.
- A general detox and cleanse. When you're eating nothing and getting all of your nutrition from supplements and green smoothies, you're going to purge your digestive system pretty quickly. This can ferry out some toxins and leave you feeling healthier, once you get over the crash.
- Boosted energy. Many people aren't getting enough of many critical nutrients, so adopting a planned meal routine can remove the malaise that comes from processed foods and replace it with the natural "high" of eating healthy.
- Weight loss. Universally, these sorts of cleanses and programs leave you eating fewer calories than you otherwise would be, boost your metabolism so you're burning more calories throughout the day, and facilitate weight loss. Any program that includes exercise, even yoga, can also help burn calories and further help you lose weight.
- Stress reduction. You might not realize just how much of your daily stress comes from aches and pains, digestive troubles, the "sugar crash", and other effects of diet. Simply replacing those negative dietary and lifestyle troubles can leave you much more relaxed and stress-free.
As you get into the more robust retreat-based programs, they often have additional benefits that an at-home program does not.
- Exposure to a cleaner environment. Taking a trip to an exotic location is often going to give you much cleaner air and water, which helps minimize environmental toxins and ailments.
- Accountability. When you're staying at a program where they guide and restrict what you're eating and what you're doing, you will find it harder to sneak in those "cheat snacks" or other fudging of the numbers. This helps ensure that you're sticking to the plan.
- Access to facilities you might not otherwise find. Things like UV light therapy, vibration therapy, oxygen therapy, colon cleansing, and steam rooms are all just hard enough to access in daily life that we count them as a benefit.
- Consultations with healthcare professionals. Many of these retreats have doctors on staff who can examine your starting condition, take your existing issues and diseases into account, and tailor a plan for you specifically. They may also provide counseling or workshops to help educate you and build habits you can bring home with you.
Again, though, the specific benefits depend entirely on the program you're looking at. You'll want to figure out what you want to get out of your green detox, and then look for a program that provides those benefits within a price range you can afford.
Are There Risks to a Green Detox Program?
One concern a lot of people have is the potential for risk in a detox program. They're meant to be a healthy change for your lifestyle, but they do carry some element of risk.
First, you have to make sure you're not taking on more than you can handle. Green cleanses can be pretty harsh on the body, and if it's a dramatic reduction in calories or if it's cutting out something like caffeine cold turkey, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Managing these symptoms can be very unpleasant, especially if you're trying to exercise along the way.
You also have to be aware of any specific health concerns you may have. Diabetes is a big one; dramatic adjustments to your blood sugar can have a wide-ranging effect on the body. Switching from a typical sugar-filled diet to one that's entirely based in greens, even if it's a temporary cleanse, can be hard for your body to react to. Extreme sugar highs and lows can be detrimental to your health, so be careful.
Another risk is that some of these programs out there will happily sell you complete nonsense as part of a program. Any program that claims they can cure cancer by feeding you vitamins and having you meditate, for example, is just lying to you. Be very careful about the promises they make.
And, of course, there's always the financial risk. Even for a cheap at-home program, if you don't follow it to the letter, you're not getting your money's worth out of it. For inpatient retreats in a foreign country, you might be spending $1,000 a day or more, and that's a huge investment for something if you're not certain it's going to work for you.
In rare circumstances, you may also experience some health issues from contamination in the supplements or products you buy. This generally only applies if you're going for the cheapest possible detox products, though, so it's not usually a huge concern. Just make sure to pay attention to where ingredients are sourced and processed, so you aren't buying something contaminated with Chinese industrial waste or something.
Is a Green Detox Program Right for You?
Reading all of the above, you just have to ask yourself one question. Is a green detox program right for you?
The decision is your own, of course, but most of the time a green detox can be a good idea. Doing a short term green detox for a week, once every quarter, is a good way to keep hitting the reset button on your bad habits and giving you a foundation to build into better habits.
The larger, more expensive green detox programs are a harder sell. They're great if you can afford them, in both time and money. They are, however, more difficult to reach and participate in than an at-home detox.
In general, we recommend the home-based detox programs as a good place to start. Once you get into the habit of the occasional detox, along with building other healthy habits and dietary changes, then you can look into more extreme versions of the cleanse as once-a-year treats.
Really though, the decision is yours and yours alone. Everyone has a different situation, and a detox may have a different range of benefits depending on that situation. If you want our advice, though, feel free to leave your story in the comments below!