GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Many doctors say it's already a heavy allergy season in West Michigan, but the best treatment for your symptoms are open for debate.
"I was seeing patients with allergy symptoms in March, which is just unheard of," said Dr. Adrian den Boer, C.P, N.D. with the Natural Holistic Health Center.
According to the National Allergy Forecast, the pollen count shows West Michigan has a medium-high amount of pollen in the air, compared to a slightly lower national average. Doctors are typically treating symptoms from Birch, Oak and grasses at this point.
"When it comes to pollens, actually most of the ones that cause trouble are so small that you can't see them," said Dr. Ted Kelbel, M.D. with Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.
Both traditional and holistic doctors say, if possible, avoid pollen: close windows, wash your face several times daily, and take a shower before bed to wash allergens off. If you're already suffering, they differ where to begin treatment.
"The good news is the treatments are generally inexpensive and very safe: over the counter antihistamines," said Dr. Kelbel.
"Additional treatment options which would include potentially allergy shots, which are very effective at controlling pollen allergy, but they do take a time commitment. So you really want to make sure that your symptoms don’t respond well to safe inexpensive medications first."
On the other hand, a naturopathic and more holistic approach begins with your diet, says Dr. den Boer.
"We always start with food first," said Dr. den Boer.
"The gut is 80 percent of the immune system. So I make sure that they’re eating non-inflammatory foods, very vegetable-based, Mediterranean-based really, and making sure that they stay away from sugar because all that creates a lot of agitation within the gut, which then revs up the immune system and makes you even more reactive."
He is against long-term use of anti-histamines, and suggests using histamine stabilizers. Instead of shots, Dr. den Boer then suggests homeopathic oral desensitizers, including local raw honey, because it includes some regional pollen.
"Traditionally there’s these anti-histamines which we don’t like using because that stops and blocks the immune system," said Dr. den Boer. "Instead we use histamine stabilizers, so we calm down the tone of the histamines, and you can do that with a lot of natural products: stinging nettle is one of them."
Yet, both doctors across the spectrum agree: daily healthy habits help you beat allergies.
"Processing stress correctly is really the key to good health," said Dr. den Boer.
"The recommendation is eat healthy no matter what you're doing," said Dr. Kelbel.