Esophagus Facts

Esophagus Facts
The esophagus is an organ in the upper digestive tract which links the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. It is also referred to as the 'food pipe', and it is usually about 8 inches in length. When you eat food or drink liquid it passes through the esophagus with the help of muscles that contract to move things along. When you swallow, the upper and lower esophageal sphincter muscles relax to allow the food or liquid to pass. These muscles contract when they aren't in use, so that the stomach acid or stomach contents can't flow back up the esophagus. When the esophagus becomes disordered or damaged it can result in a variety of health issues such as acid reflux.
Interesting Esophagus Facts:
The word esophagus is derived from the Greek word 'oisophagos' which means 'gullet'.
When a person swallows food, it enters into the pharynx (throat behind the nasal cavity and mouth) and into the esophagus.
When food leaves the esophagus after being swallowed it enters into the stomach to continue along the digestive tract.
Saliva, which is added to food when you chew, acts as a lubricant to make it easier for food to pass through the esophagus. Saliva also helps to break food down.
When stomach acid makes its way back up through the lower esophageal sphincter into the esophagus, the esophagus can become inflamed and painful.
When the esophagus becomes inflamed it is a condition called esophagitis. This can be caused by acid reflux, food allergies, infections, irritating or corrosive substances, and medications.
In some cases esophageal cancer develops when the tissues in the esophagus become cancerous.
Humans are not the only ones to have an esophagus. Animals, fish, reptiles and birds have an esophagus.
When a person has trouble swallowing they may have oropharyngeal dysphagia. When this occurs they may cough or choke during the first stage of swallowing their food. It can feel like it is stuck before reaching the stomach.
GERD is gastroesophageal reflux disease. This occurs when gastric contents move back up into the esophagus after reaching the stomach. Because the acids in the stomach are too strong for the esophagus it can lead to bleeding, ulcers, and sometimes cancer if not treated.
Although it is rare, the esophagus can be torn. It is more common with dry heaves or frequent vomiting, but can occur if a sharp object is accidentally ingested.
It takes about 7 seconds for food to travel through the esophagus into the stomach.
There are muscles in the esophagus that work like waves to move food along. These muscles work so well that if you were eating upside down, they would still move the food in the right direction. This is called peristalsis.
The average person's salivary glands create about 1.5 litres of saliva every day. Most of it goes through the esophagus.
To help keep the esophagus healthy or to help it heal if GERD has developed, it's best to eat smaller meals, avoid caffeine, alcohol, carbonated beverages, quit smoking, lose weight if needed, and sit up for a while after eating.

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