The oesophagus

The oesophagus is also called the gullet or food pipe. It is part of the digestive system, which is sometimes called the gastro-intestinal tract (GI tract). The oesophagus is a muscular tube about 25cm (10in) long. It connects your mouth to your stomach.

When you swallow food, the walls of the oesophagus squeeze together (contract). This moves the food down the oesophagus to the stomach.

The upper part of the oesophagus is behind the windpipe (trachea). The windpipe is the tube that connects your mouth and nose to your lungs, so you can breathe. There are several lymph nodes close to the oesophagus. The area where the oesophagus joins the stomach is called the gastro-oesophageal junction.

The oesophagus has four layers:

  • The mucosa is the inner layer. It is moist to help food pass smoothly into the stomach.
  • The submucosa contains glands that produce mucus (secretions). This keeps the oesophagus moist.
  • The muscularis is the muscle layer. It pushes food down to the stomach.
  • The adventitia is the outer layer. It attaches the oesophagus to nearby parts of the body.

The oesophagus and surrounding organs
The oesophagus and surrounding organs

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