Bi­ol­o­gist says he has al­lergy so­lu­tion

Ex-LANL staffer says his AllerPops sta­bi­lize ‘good’ bac­te­ria

Albuquerque Journal - - JOURNAL NORTH - BY ME­GAN BEN­NETT JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

LOS ALAMOS — A re­tired Los Alamos Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory bi­ol­o­gist thinks he has found the so­lu­tion to long-term al­lergy relief.

It’s a lol­lipop. Specif­i­cally, a lol­lipop that Cliff Han says tack­les what he be­lieves is the root cause of en­vi­ron­men­tal al­ler­gies, rather than the symp­toms. By sta­bi­liz­ing lev­els of “good” oral bac­te­ria, he says, his prod­uct helps “switch off” an over­work­ing im­mune sys­tem that makes peo­ple sneeze or cough.

His process isn’t nearly as pas­sive as tak­ing an al­lergy pill, get­ting a shot or let­ting a lozenge dis­solve. It re­quires a user to per­form a thor­ough mouth clean­ing, in­clud­ing of the tongue, be­fore us­ing the lol­lipops, and to keep up a spec­i­fied non-in­ten­sive oral hy­giene reg­i­men over time.

His orig­i­nal in­struc­tions for the AllerPops in­cluded 13 steps. Hans says users of his pops re­port a “black and white” dif­fer­ence depend­ing on how well they fol­low the in­struc­tions, which he now has sim­pli­fied to merely four steps.

Han, who launched AllerPops in Fe­bru­ary 2018 after study­ing his own strug­gle with al­ler­gies, briefly had a store­front at Santa Fe Place Mall, but he has shifted to sell­ing on­line — through his web­site and Ama­zon — and at

the Los Alamos Co­op­er­a­tive Mar­ket. Most of his cur­rent cus­tomers are from New Mex­ico.

He said he has sold around 1,000 boxes so far. A $39.99 box comes with 12 pops, which he says has been enough to pro­vide relief for an es­ti­mated 70-80 per­cent of his cus­tomers. The pops are made in China.

Han cred­ited a sales in­crease in Jan­uary, dur­ing which he sold about 100 boxes, to a re­cent push with lo­cal tele­vi­sion and on­line ad­ver­tise­ments. Due to the costs, how­ever, he said he’s tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend­ing those ef­forts.

“Com­pared to 50 mil­lion peo­ple hav­ing (al­ler­gies), we have lots of work to do,” he said.

Han also has work to do to per­suade al­ler­gists that his candy ac­tu­ally works.

“If peo­ple want to try it,

I don’t see on the sur­face any­thing that’s detri­men­tal, but I don’t be­lieve it has the ef­fects that he’s claim­ing,” said Richard Wachs, a board­cer­ti­fied al­ler­gist im­mu­nol­o­gist and med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Breathe-Amer­ica New Mex­ico, an Al­bu­querque-based al­lergy and asthma clinic.

A spokesper­son from the Asthma and Al­lergy Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica said in an email that the or­ga­ni­za­tion could not com­ment on the ef­fec­tive­ness of AllerPops be­cause they’re an “un­proven treat­ment method.”

Han, who was trained as a doc­tor in his na­tive China, moved to the U.S. in 1996. He worked at Los Alamos Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory for more than 20 years, mostly in its bio­science di­vi­sion. He re­tired last year to fo­cus on his AllerPops busi­ness full time. Han sells the pops un­der his um­brella cor­po­ra­tion, Knoze Jr.

The the­ory be­hind AllerPops is based on re­search Han con­ducted not on a trial group, but on him­self. He started col­lect­ing his own saliva sam­ples — and, later, oth­ers from mem­bers of his fam­ily — when he started hav­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal al­lergy symp­toms in 2014. His symp­toms were on­go­ing, then be­came sea­sonal in 2015.

“I couldn’t sleep in the night, be­cause the nose was com­pletely con­gested,” he said. “I just couldn’t breathe. Any time I fall into sleep, my throat would be burn­ing when I wake up. Each night, I would wake up five to 10 times a night.”

When try­ing to de­ter­mine what could have led to his new sen­si­tiv­ity to pollen, he re­al­ized he had re­cently in­ten­si­fied his oral hy­giene rou­tine. He’d started vis­it­ing the den­tist more reg­u­larly, and was sup­ple­ment­ing his brush­ing with reg­u­lar floss­ing, tongue scrap­ing and mouth­wash use.

He said says the ex­tra clean­ing could have killed both good and bad bac­te­ria in his mouth. Com­par­ing his saliva to that of fam­ily mem­bers, he no­ticed a cor­re­la­tion be­tween the abundance of two spe­cific types of bac­te­ria, strep­to­coc­cus and veil­lonella, and re­duced al­lergy symp­toms.

To­gether, these two kinds of bac­te­ria cre­ate a fatty acid that has the abil­ity to pacify the im­mune sys­tem, Han said. With­out them, he said, the im­mune sys­tem will fight pathogens, but also over­re­acts to non-harm­ful for­eign sub­stances like pollen or mold, pro­duc­ing the fa­mil­iar symp­toms of al­ler­gies

“It’s just like the switch,” he said. “The im­mune sys­tem is on, the power is al­ways there. You have to have a switch to switch it off if you don’t need it.”

He first tried com­pletely elim­i­nat­ing oral hy­giene to bring up the good bac­te­ria lev­els, but that didn’t re­lieve his al­ler­gies. In 2017, he de­cided to make a candy to specif­i­cally pro­mote strep­to­coc­cus and veil­lonella. He made the AllerPops with sug­ars and amino acids based on re­search of what the bac­te­ria pre­fer as their en­ergy sources.

At first, the pops pro­vided him only tem­po­rary relief. But dur­ing his test­ing, he caught a fever that killed off the biofilm on his tongue. Hav­ing a clear mouth meant it was a good time to try to pro­mote good bac­te­ria, he said, and he took a few of his pops the fol­low­ing day.

“The next day, ev­ery­thing was gone,” he said. “I could ac­tu­ally sit in the Ash­ley Pond (Park). That was March 15, 2017. You know March (is) al­lergy sea­son, ju­niper pollen is the high­est in the year. But at that mo­ment, I could sit in the park with­out feel­ing any­thing. So that was the mo­ment. It (was a) black and white change.”

With his pops, Han pro­vides in­struc­tions to start with clean­ing out the mouth. One hour be­fore a meal, users are sup­posed to brush their teeth with no tooth­paste, scrub the tongue of all biofilm and gar­gle hot wa­ter in 10- to 20-sec­ond in­ter­vals for five min­utes. The process then calls for us­ing one AllerPop for an hour un­til it melts and re­peat­ing the en­tire process, in­clud­ing the mouth clean­ing and gar­gling, ev­ery other day un­til symp­toms dis­ap­pear.

He said peo­ple who fol­low the di­rec­tions cor­rectly, ad­here to a proper oral hy­giene rou­tine — brush­ing daily, as well as oc­ca­sional floss­ing and tongue scrap­ing — and aren’t tak­ing an­tibi­otics, can en­joy relief that could last for months or years.

“What I guess is as long as you keep your oral mi­cro­biota sta­ble (and) don’t in­ter­rupt it too much … your relief could last for a very, very long time,” he said. “I don’t know how long that could be. It’s just like flu, right? You could get it next sea­son.”

On Ama­zon, there are re­views from users who say AllerPops pro­vided last­ing relief and from crit­ics who com­plain it didn’t work. Other com­plaints in­cluded that the in­struc­tions are too com­pli­cated and about the candy’s taste. The pops are fla­vored with cin­na­mon, vanilla ex­tract and co­coa pow­der.

Han’s in­struc­tions for AllerPops come with a warn­ing that they should be used only un­til symp­toms sub­side. He does not rec­om­mend us­ing them long-term, “as over­paci­fied im­mune sys­tems can in­crease the odds of other health prob­lems, such as in­fec­tion or some types of can­cer.”

Sci­en­tific doubt

Allerpop’s in­struc­tions note that the prod­uct has not been eval­u­ated by the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion and is not in­tended to “di­ag­nose, treat, cure or pre­vent any dis­ease.” It also states they should not be used in lieu of pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion or as a sub­sti­tute for any treat­ment.

As a bi­ol­o­gist, Han is used to need­ing nu­mer­ous case stud­ies to ver­ify a re­sult. But with his first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence with AllerPops, as well as that of his son, who also suf­fered from al­ler­gies, he says he’s con­vinced his prod­uct works.

Han ac­knowl­edged his the­o­ries haven’t gar­nered sup­port from the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity. He also spec­u­lated that jour­nals he has sub­mit­ted his study to may not like a oneper­son study or the fact that he con­ducted it on him­self.

BreatheAmer­ica New Mex­ico’s Wachs said he’s not aware of any re­search that backs up the the­ory that chang­ing bac­te­rial flora in the mouth will al­ter the im­mune sys­tem, par­tic­u­larly for peo­ple whose im­mune sys­tems have al­ready formed the an­ti­bod­ies that over­re­act to al­ler­gens. He also de­scribed Han’s tiny self­s­tudy as more anec­do­tal than sci­en­tific.

Han said he isn’t sur­prised by the doubts, but that at this point, get­ting the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity to be­lieve is a se­condary goal.

“I choose to give the ben­e­fit to peo­ple who need first and over time they will see the ben­e­fit and do some­thing (and) hope­fully more re­search will fol­low,” he said.

ED­DIE MOORE/JOUR­NAL

Cliff Han shows off two of his AllerPops, fla­vored with cin­na­mon, vanilla and co­coa pow­der.

ED­DIE MOORE/JOUR­NAL

Cliff Han packs boxes of his al­lergy rem­edy, called AllerPops, at his of­fice in Los Alamos.

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