Food Allergies and Intolerances

If you think you have a food allergy or intolerance, it is important to seek advice from your GP. You may get referred to a registered dietitian if appropriate.

Excluding certain foods could mean missing out on essential nutrients to stay well. Get advice from a health professional to make sure that you avoid the right foods for you.

What’s the difference?
How should I manage my food intolerance?
Can I still eat from the HILS menu?
Digestive symptoms
Food allergy testing
Gluten free?

What is the difference between a food allergy and an intolerance?

An allergic reaction happens when the body’s immune system thinks a food protein is harmful. It then tries to defend against it. This can cause symptoms such as an itchy rash, swelling, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

A food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. Food intolerances may cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, and stomach cramps. This may be due to difficulties digesting certain substances. For example, lactose, found in dairy products.

Whilst a food intolerance is not life threatening, it can still have an impact on your quality of life.

How should I manage my food intolerance?

The symptoms of a food intolerance usually occur several hours after eating the food. Symptoms vary between individuals. Some people can only cope with small amounts of the food while others may be able to have more. So it is important to work out how much you can eat rather than exclude it completely.

Can I still have the HILS meal service if I am allergic to some foods?

Yes. We can provide information about allergens for all our foods and drinks. Allergens are marked in bold on the ingredients of our meals.  If you have a food allergy, contact your local Support Team who can tell you suitable meal choices.

Digestive symptoms and bowel health 

Some people find certain foods difficult to digest. They may exacerbate an existing condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You can see information about bowel health and managing IBS here.

Food allergy testing

Only trained health professionals can diagnose an allergy. Be wary of alternative tests that claim to diagnose food allergies or intolerances.

The 14 most common allergens are:

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten e.g. wheat, rye, and barley
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lupin
  • Milk
  • Mustard
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soya
  • Sulphites
  • Crustaceans e.g. prawns, crab and lobster
  • Molluscs e.g. mussels and oysters

I have been told to avoid gluten, what does this mean?

A GP or dietitian may have advised you to avoid gluten. We have a variety of gluten-free main courses and desserts to choose from. These are marked GF on our menu.

If you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease, please see our resources here.

Further information and links

Allergies and Intolerances booklet (PDF)

This resource has been compiled using available current evidence and has been approved by a team of dietitians and nutritionists. The information is for general use and should not replace individual tailored advice given by a healthcare professional.

For further information, please contact your local Support Team or contact our Nutrition & Wellbeing Team directly here.

If you are a health or social care professional and require leaflets for your team or clients, then please contact us