Expert advice: Dietitian Annemarie Aburrow

Ellen Tout speaks to Southampton based dietitian Annemarie about how to manage your dietary needs and why we are now seeing high rates of  diagnosis. 

Annemarie Aburrow works as a nutritionist and registered dietitian, based in Southampton, Hampshire. Her eight years of experience cover both nutrition and dietetics. She is a member of the British Dietetic Association and is registered with the Health Professions Council.

How did you get involved in this field?

“I have always been interested in food and nutrition since childhood and was always baking and make lemon curd.

“I studied a three year degree in Physiology with Nutrition. This degree was excellent and gave me a large knowledge base and also really sparked my interest in pursuing nutrition as a career. After deciding I wanted to become a dietitian, during my first year, I set about getting as much work experience as possible during my degree. This included doing my dissertation on malnutrition screening, and working one summer as a health care assistant on the wards of a busy hospital,” she explains.

Annemarie was keen to train as a dietitian, rather than a nutritionist. “Dietitians are the only nutrition professionls to be regulated by law and governed by an ethical code. This means that dietitians all have to train to the same high standards in order to practice. Nutritionists are not regulated in the same way and anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, meaning it is really important to check a nutritionist’s qualifications,” she clarifies. “I went to Cardiff to undertake a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics in 2003, which led to state registration as a dietitian. I have worked in the NHS for the last eight years and more recently have started working freelance.”

“I am also a busy mum of three children and love the challenges that come with juggling work and family life.”



What top tip would you give to somebody who has just been diagnosed with lactose or wheat intolerance or celiac disease?

“Every allergy or intolerance is very different and impacts the diet in different ways,” she says. “I would strongly advise that anyone who is diagnosed should seek advice from a registered dietitian as soon as possible. A dietitian will assess current diet and symptoms and give you tailored advice taking into account your likes, dislikes and lifestyle. They will also ensure that if you are avoiding certain foods or food groups that your diet remains healthy and balanced, with the right amount of vitamins and minerals.”

What services do you offer for people with a free from lifestyle?

“As a freelance dietitian, I am able to see people who believe they may have an allergy or intolerance and diagnose this using tools such as food and symptom diaries and elimination diets. If an allergy or intolerance is confirmed, or has already been diagnosed, I would provide specific dietary advice on what to avoid and how to avoid it, whilst ensuring that people can still follow a balanced diet, obtaining all the nutrients they need to be healthy.

“I would also provide advice around tackling food shopping, reading food labels, cooking, recipes and meal plans as required. I see clients on a one-to-one basis in clinic, or I can do a telephone or Skype consultation.” 

Why do you think specific food intolerances have become more common compared to ten years ago?

“I think a number of factors are responsible for this,” she explains:
  1.  “More improved diagnosis and specialist dietitians and physicians in post . There has been a lot of improvements in diagnosing people with allergies, which makes it look like allergies or intolerances have been on the rise. In fact they may have been there all along, just undiagnosed. In particular, coeliac disease and milk allergies in children have become more common due to this.
  2. “Food allergies tend to run in families.”
  3. “The amount of processed food people eat may increase the likelihood of developing food intolerances. We eat a larger amount of processed food now compared to ten years ago.”
  4. “A lot of people self-diagnose in our current day and age, or seek advice from nutritionists who lack proper qualifications. This can mean that people believe they have an allergy or intolerance without having had it diagnosed by a registered health professional, such as a Dietitian or Physician. The British Dietetic Association provide an informative fact sheet on allergy and intolerance testing.”
  5. “In terms of allergies in children and infants, recent research suggests that if children are exposed to allergens (such as nuts, gluten or milk) too late, they may be more likely to become allergic. Similarly, introducing allergens before 17 weeks of age may lead to increased allergies.”

 Any final advice for our readers?

“I would advise anyone who thinks they may be suffering from an allergy or intolerance to seek advice from a registered dietitian. You may be able to see a dietitian on the NHS, or you may choose to see a Dietitian privately.

“It is important to understand that a food allergy is different to a food intolerance. A food allergy is an immune response, whereas a food intolerance is a chemical reaction. Although symptoms may be similar, people with a food intolerance can usually tolerate a small amount of the offending food.”

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