Esophagus - Food Pipe - Gullet

What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Esophagitis

Esophagus is also spelt as oesophagus. It is also known as gullet, food pipe and swallowing tube. It is the digestive system organ where food enters after you swallow the food.

It comes from the Greek word oisophagos. Oisein means to carry and phagein means to eat. It is the 'entrance for eating'.

Food pipe is a muscular tube through which the food passes after you swallow it. It is the beginning part of the digestive tract at the entrance it is about 25 to 30 cm long. It starts at the end of the mouth and ends at the stomach. It is the tube that connects the pharynx (throat) to the stomach.

This food pipe or gullet consists of mucus secreting glands which are also called 'esophageal glands'. These glands in the lining produce mucus. This mucus eases the way downwards for the food by keeping the tube moist which makes swallowing easier. After we swallow food, it passes through pharynx and then enters the food pipe.

Once the person swallows food, it is pushed downward because of the contractions of the muscular walls in the esophagus till it enters stomach. The digestive process which starts in the mouth continues in the stomach.

After we swallow food, it passes through pharynx and then enters the food pipe. Food pipe is the part where the food comes up from the stomach when you have acid indigestion and then may feel heartburn.

Food pipe is the part where the food comes up from the stomach when you have acid indigestion and then may feel heartburn.

The upper end of muscles are called 'upper esophageal sphincter (UES)'. These upper muscles can be controlled. This control is used while breathing, belching/burping, eating and vomiting. These muscles prevent the food entering the windpipe.

The lower end of the food pipe is called 'lower esophageal sphincter (LES)'. It connects to the stomach and opens into the stomach. These muscles cannot be controlled. LES is supposed to open only one way, to let the food into the stomach and keep it there. It also stops the stomach acids from entering the food pipe when it is in healthy condition.

The types of esophagus conditions / problems

Heartburn - Due to many reasons, LES may weaken and the stomach acids then rise up into the food pipe. As the esophagus lining is not as strong as the stomach lining, the acid reflux causes burning sensation. This is called heartburn.

GERD - Gastro esophageal reflux disease. When acid reflux occurs too frequently or for a long duration, it is referred to as gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Oesophagitis / esophagitis - is the inflammation of the esophagus. It may happen because of an infection or due to the frequent irritation with acid reflux.

Barrett's esophagus - when frequent and long time acid reflux causes irritation, it may result in the changing of the structure of the lower part of the food pipe. This may even lead to esophageal cancer.

Esophageal cancer - may be caused because of chronic acid reflux, heavy drinking or smoking.




Go to Human Digestive System from Esophagus - Food Pipe

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