The food we swallow passes through a pipe which leads to the stomach. This pipe is known as the food pipe or the oesophagus. Food reaches the stomach from pharynx through peristaltic contractions.
Read on to explore what is food pipe and the functions performed by it.
Food Pipe Definition
“Food pipe or oesophagus is the part of digestive system of vertebrates with a distinct path exclusively meant for passage of food.”
What is Food Pipe?
Food pipe 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 the uppermost part of the digestive system.
The veins and arteries that pass through the oesophagus or food pipe are called oesophageal veins and oesophageal arteries respectively. The upper part of the 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 the food which pushes the food down towards the stomach.
Layers Of Food Pipe
The food pipe or oesophagus is divided into the following layers:
- 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
Also Read: Alimentary Canal
Functions Of Food Pipe
The food pipe or oesophagus performs the following important functions:
- 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 relaxations 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 or food pipe 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 – Oesophageal Cancer
It is a cancer of the food pipe where the cells multiply in an uncontrolled way. It is mostly diagnosed in people above 60 years of age. When the tumour is small, it does not show any symptoms. It is only when it enlarges, the symptoms become apparent and develop. The 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 food pipe is surgically removed. Many other treatments are recommended such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, etc.
Also Read: Peristalsis
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Frequently Asked Questions
How is the food canal different from the food pipe?
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 in the anus, allowing food to travel through this canal while digesting food.
How does a food pipe work?
When we swallow something, it reaches the stomach through the oesophagus or the food pipe. A muscle ring at the lower end of the food pipe opens and allows the food to enter into the stomach. the muscle then closes and prevents the food from going back into the oesophagus.
What happens if the food goes down the windpipe?
If the food goes down the windpipe it might cause choking. Even if you don’t choke, the food particles enter into the lungs and might lead to a serious case of pneumonia.
What is the difference between the food pipe and the windpipe?
Food pipe is the oesophagus that belongs to the digestive system. On the contrary, the windpipe is the tracheae that belong to the respiratory system.
Why does the food pipe burn sometimes?
The food pipe gives a burning sensation because the acid in the stomach flows back into the oesophagus or the food pipe. This is known as acid reflux.