In the last issue, I promised to give the anatomy or location, and function of the structures in the neck transporting food to the stomach. Here it is. Have patience, we soon will be bathing in stomach acid which is so strong it will dissolve a nail.
Where is the esophagus located?
The esophagus is located in the center of your chest in an area called the mediastinum. It lies behind your windpipe (trachea) and in front of your spine. The average adult esophagus is about 10 to 13 inches long. It’s about three-fourths of an inch thick at its smallest point.
What’s the difference between the trachea and the esophagus?
Your trachea (windpipe) and your esophagus are both muscular tubes located within your neck. However, they have two very different functions. Your trachea is part of your respiratory system, and your esophagus is part of your digestive system. Your trachea transports air in and out of your lungs, whereas your esophagus transports food and liquid from your throat to your stomach, which is the destination for this part of our journey. So now you can see the amazing anatomy of our mouth and throat and all the things it does in taking our food in the right shape for the next round of our nourishment. (Data extracted from Cleveland Clinic)
Problems in this section
Next, we get into the stomach. I predict that we may not be able to cover all that you should know about the stomach in this issue, but in the long run, when this series is done, you will know all you need to know about what happens to the food you eat.
This is the first real step in digesting your food in the digestive system. It is shaped like a J and joins at the top to the esophagus and the duodenum at the lower end.
The duodenum is 8 to 10 inches long and is the shortest, and the first, section of the small intestine. It is connected at the top with the bottom of the stomach. It allows particles of food to leave the stomach and proceed on through the intestines. We will talk more about its function after completing the stomach.
The function of the duodenum is to mix food with enzymes and bile to digest it. The duodenum is a key organ in the gastrointestinal (GI) system because it helps break down nutrients from food to make them available for absorption into the bloodstream.
This stuff plays a vital role in the digestive process. When food enters the stomach it begins to churn to mix the bolus that fell into it (or maybe I should say squeezed down into it from the esophagus which uses a pinching type wave to push food down the pipe into the stomach called peristalsis. (As an irrelevant side, I personally have a “hiatal hernia” in my esophagus that bothers me from time to time, particularly if I am eating too fast and the food particle is big and heavy or even if it is as small as a pill. The peristalsis with grab and pinch the particle in an attempt to push it further down, but it stalls and is very painful. The first time it happened I was a dinner with some professional men and I thought it was a heart attack. I later learned to handle it by just regurgitating it back up and all is well. I must say it is embarrassing but I usually say nothing, as I cannot speak at the time, leave the table for the restroom where I happily offload the little problem.
Gastric Juices (acid)
Gastric acid produced in the stomach plays a vital role in the digestive process containing hydrochloric acid and sodium chloride. I won’t go into the complex chemistry of how it is produced in the stomach, but just know that this stuff is powerful and begins the digestion of proteins. . As this “juice” is so strong it would quickly destroy the very stomach itself, so it secretes mucus from its many gastric glands, to provide a slimy protective layer against the damaging effects of the chemicals on the inner layers of the stomach. Everyone, at one time or another, has experienced “acid reflux,” of a small drop or two of this acid escaping into the taste buds. The unfortunate few have this as an unenviable chronic condition.
Peristalsis in the stomach
While protein is being digested, mechanical churning occurs through the action of the waves of muscular contractions that move along the stomach wall. (peristalsis) This allows the mass of food to further mix with the digestive enzymes. This breaks down fats.
The stomach is an incredibly expansive organ and can normally expand to hold about one liter of food. This expansion is enabled by a series of gastric folds in the inner walls of the stomach.
Next up, the duodenum, spleen, and liver
Yeah, I know, you are anxious to get into the small intestine and see what it does. But the duodenum, which the food must pass through and the spleen and liver are super vital organs, and you must know how important they are to you. So these guys are next in Digestive V
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