One of the worst aspects of acid reflux is that it can occur at any time-on the way to work, while eating lunch, during a workout, in the middle of the night. But there is good news: you have the power to control your symptoms. Consistent acid reflux relief is possible. Here's how.

1. Alter your diet. Your stomach is filled with acid that helps you digest food. Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly, allowing acid to back up through the esophagus. So preventing acid reflux starts with ensuring a smooth digestive process.

  • Foods to avoid: anything that irritates the esophagus: anything fried in oil, anything with a lot of fat, anything tomato-based, and anything chocolate. Chicken parm for dinner and chocolate cake for desert is not a smart choice.
  • Tips for eating: make food easily digestible by chewing slowly,[1] eat 6 smaller meals instead of 3 larger ones, wait 2-3 hours after a meal to lie down.

2. Curtail smoking and drinking. Because smoking increases the acid clearance time from within the esophagus, doing it can increase the likelihood of acid reflux, according to the National Heartburn Alliance. The organization also cites studies that demonstrate how even a small amount of alcohol contributes to abnormal functioning of the LES.[2]

3. Take basic medication. Antacids-over-the-counter drugs in liquid or tablet form that neutralize stomach acid-can be taken daily. Popular brands are Maalox and Mylanta. However, taking them too frequently may result in constipation or diarrhea.

4. Limit high-impact exercise. Exercises that reverse the natural process of digestion can cause acid reflux. These include jogging and many popular sports, like basketball and tennis.

5. Cut back on stress. If this seems hard-if not impossible-you're not alone. After all, most of us are, in some way, stressed from the moment we wake up. But the National Heartburn Alliance finds that nearly 6 in 10 frequent heartburn sufferers identify a "hectic lifestyle" as a contributing factor.[3]

6. Keep a diary. It is important to understand that what works for one person may not work for another. And there has to be some level of personal responsibility involved as well. This is why most organizations, like the American Gastroenterological Association, suggest keeping a symptom diary.[4] Track your daily activities, and, with a different color pen or marker, note when you experience reflux, and how strong it is. After a couple of weeks, you'll be able to pinpoint which parts of your life contribute to acid reflux-and make the changes to provide acid reflux relief.