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Word Count: 380
Esophagus The esophagus is in the digestive system The esophagus is a muscular tube which carries food and liquids from the throat to the stomach for digestion after it has been chewed and softened in the mouth It is about 25 cm long and 25 cm across Food is forced downward to the stomach by powerful wave like muscle contractions passing through the walls of the esophagus Because these contractions are so strong in the throat and the esophagus we can swallow in any position -- even upside-down The esophagus wall contains two muscle layers an inner circular layer and an outer circular layer This contraction must be coordinated with a relaxation of the circular muscle and a contraction of the longitudinal muscle in front of the bolus At the same time muscles at the top of the esophagus relax and the bolus is squeezed into the esophagus A bolus is literally squeezed forward by a coordinated contraction of the circular muscle behind it The muscular layers of the esophagus are pinched together at both ends by muscles called sphincters When a person swallows the sphincters relax automatically to allow food or drink to pass from the mouth and into the stomach The muscles then closed rapidly to prevent the swallowed food or drink from leaking out of the stomach back into the esophagus or into the mouth This is automatic and people are usually not aware of it Many people have felt their esophagus when they swallow something too large try to eat too quickly or drink very hot or very cold liquids They then feel the movement of the food or drink down the esophagus into the stomach which may be an uncomfortable feeling Generally the esophagus is collapsed It extends to a circular shape only when a bolus of food is in it When people burp to release swallowed air or gas from pop the sphincters relax and small amounts of
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