After we chew our food and swallow, it passes through a pipe which leads into the stomach. This pipe is known as the food pipe or the oesophagus. Oesophagus in an organ in the digestive tract of vertebrates with a distinct path exclusively meant for passage of food. Food reaches the stomach from pharynx through peristaltic contractions. It is a muscular tube which is 25 centimetres long, passing just behind the heart region connecting the mouth to the stomach. It is made up of connective tissues and is one of the uppermost parts of the digestive system. Veins and arteries that pass through the oesophagus are called oesophageal veins and oesophageal arteries respectively. The upper part of Oesophagus is behind the windpipe. Oesophagus joins the stomach at a point called the gastro-oesophageal junction. When we swallow food, oesophagus contracts and squeezes food which results in food being pushed down towards the stomach.
Layers Of Esophagus
There are four layers in the oesophagus, namely:
- Mucosa: The inner layer
- Submucosa: The layer responsible for producing secretions
- Muscularis: Food is pushed down through this layer made up of muscles
- Adventitia: Oesophagus is attached to the other parts through this outer layer
Functions Of Oesophagus
- The food we eat reaches the oesophagus after passing through the larynx
- After the buccal cavity, the oesophagus is the next point of contact for food into the gastrointestinal tract
- Responsible in preventing the entry of food into the windpipe, by controlling the movement of the epiglottis
- Radially symmetric contractions of oesophagus help push food downwards.
- Rhythmic contractions and relaxation of oesophageal muscles result in the swift movement of food towards the gastro-oesophageal junction.
Care needs to be taken about the health of oesophagus as negligence can cause severe disorders in the food pipe. One such ailment of the food pipe is Oesophageal cancer.
Disorder Of The Food Pipe – Esophageal Cancer
It is a cancer of the food pipe where the abnormal cells multiply in an uncontrolled way. It is mostly diagnosed in people over the age of 60, however, not limited. When the tumour is small, it does not show any symptoms, it is only when they get bigger, the symptoms become apparent and develop. Commonly occurring symptoms are:
- Dysphagia – patient finds it difficult to swallow food
- Regurgitation – Food tends to come back up before even making it to the stomach
- While swallowing, the patient suffers from throat pain or pain in the middle of the chest
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Tends to develop a hoarse voice
- Weight loss
- Uneasiness or dull pain between the shoulder blades
The initial treatment of the oesophageal cancer is dependant upon the stage as to how far it has grown. With an early diagnosis, endoscopic procedures can be carried out, however, if it has advanced to a higher stage, a part or most of the oesophagus is surgically removed. Many other treatments are recommended such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, Immunotherapy, etc.
Q.1. How is the food canal different from the food pipe?
A.1. Food pipe is a gullet carrying food from the mouth to the stomach whereas the food canal is a long tube that starts from the mouth and ends, allowing food to travel through this canal while digesting food.
For further information on the Food Pipe, different parts of our digestive system or any other related topics in biology, please register at BYJU’S.