After the food consumption, food mixes with saliva to form a bolus that is then swallowed.
The presence of mucus in the saliva acts as a lubricant for the easy moving of food through the stomach.
The bolus so formed is swallowed down to the pharynx after passing from the tongue. The pharynx opens into the esophagus (food pipe) and windpipe (larynx, trachea).
The presence of epiglottis hinged at the base of the tongue prevents the entry of food into the windpipe
It is an elongated muscular tube that extends between the pharynx and the stomach. It acts as a channel for transporting foods and liquids to the stomach.
The esophageal tube starts from the lower border of the cricoid cartilage (C6) present in the neck and descends into the thorax through superior mediastinum and presents between the trachea and the vertebral bodies of T1-T4.
A ring-shaped muscle called a sphincter is present within the esophagus. It is of two types-upper and lower sphincter that are located at the proximal and distal portion of the esophagus respectively. However, the lower esophageal sphincter (also called cardiac sphincter) presents at the bottom of the tube permits the entry of food from the esophagus to the stomach.
Sphincters are muscles that act as a valve in closing and opening the esophageal tube on contraction and relaxation.
The food movement from the pharynx to the esophagus is controlled due to the presence of the upper esophageal sphincter that is continuous with the lower pharyngeal constrictor.
The relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter allows the passage of food into the stomach. After doing so it shrinks to prevent stomach acids from reverting into the esophagus.
The muscular diaphragm keeps the sphincter closed when no food is swallowed. Occasionally, when the lower esophageal sphincter is not closed properly, the stomachâ€™s contents will reflux causing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn.
During vomiting, peristalsis is reversed to void the contents of the stomach to remove any toxic or pathogens from the body.
The esophagus is made of four tissue layers:
Mucosa layer: It is the internal lining of the esophagus that comes in contact with the substances passing through the esophagus. The mucosal layer is made up of stratified squamous epithelial tissue that protects the esophagus from rough food particles and acid present in the stomach. The production of mucus lubricates the esophagus and acts as a protective layer for mucosa from stomach acid. 2. Submucosa layer: The layer is made of connective tissue which provides blood and nerve supply to this layer and tissues of the esophagus. 3. Muscularis layer: This layer is surrounded by the submucosa that helps in the contraction and expansion of the substances passing through the esophagus. The presence of skeletal muscle on the top part of the esophagus helps in swallowing reflex and smooth muscles in the bottom part help in the movement of food bolus to the stomach by peristaltic action. 4. Adventitia layer: It is the outer covering of the connective tissue surrounding the esophagus that attaches freely to the surrounding organs.
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