Food Pipe

Table of Contents


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 the pharynx through peristaltic contractions.

Read on to explore what is food pipe and its functions.

Food Pipe Definition

“Food pipe or oesophagus is the part of the digestive system of vertebrates with a distinct path exclusively meant for passage of food.”

What is Food Pipe?

The food pipe or oesophagus is a long muscular tube which provides a passageway for the food from the buccal cavity to the stomach.
The food pipe shows peristalsis which is an involuntary movement of muscles in a wave-like pattern. This special movement helps the oesophagus in carrying the food in the direction of 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:

  1. The food we eat reaches the oesophagus after passing through the larynx.
  2. After the buccal cavity, the oesophagus is the next point of contact for food into the gastrointestinal tract.
  3. Responsible for preventing the entry of food into the windpipe by controlling the movement of the epiglottis.
  4. Radially symmetric contractions of the oesophagus help push food downwards.
  5. 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 the 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:

  1. Dysphagia – patient finds it difficult to swallow food
  2. Regurgitation – Food tends to come back up before even making it to the stomach
  3. Nausea
  4. While swallowing, the patient suffers from throat pain or pain in the middle of the chest
  5. Heartburn or indigestion
  6. Tends to develop a hoarse voice
  7. Cough
  8. Weight loss
  9. Uneasiness or dull pain between the shoulder blades

The initial treatment of oesophageal cancer is dependent 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

For further information on the food pipe or oesophagus, different parts of our digestive system or any other related topics in biology, please register at BYJU’S.

Frequently Asked Questions


How is the food canal different from the food pipe?

A 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 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 the lungs and might lead to a serious case of pneumonia.


What is the difference between the food pipe and the windpipe?

The 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.

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