Oesophagus or Food Pipe

Alimentary canal or the digestive system includes the entire mechanism that starts with ingestion of food to its movement till the stomach. It concludes with digestion of food particles. 

The digestive system includes mouth, food pipe, stomach, small intestine, large intestine etc. 

Let us move on to the discussion about what is a food pipe or oesophagus. 

What is Oesophagus?

Oesophagus or food pipe is an organ in the human digestive system that transfers food particles to the stomach for its ingestion. 

It is located ahead of the spinal column and right at the back of trachea and heart. 

Length of food pipe is about 25 cm with a width varying between 1.5 to 2 cm.  

Parts of Food Pipe 

When you are planning to prepare a short note on oesophagus, do not forget to focus on its different layers. Read on to know more about it. 

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There are four layers in oesophagus –

1. Mucosa

The mucosa is the innermost layer containing multiple mucous glands. It is entirely made up of stratified squamous epithelium.

2. Submucosa

The submucosa is the upper sheath of the mucosa and connects the latter with muscularis. It is mostly a thick fibrous layer. The submucosa is responsible for secretion.

3. Muscularis 

The longitudinal muscular fold arising out of mucosa and submucosa is known as muscularis. It pushes down food towards the stomach through muscle movement. 

4. Tunica Adventitia

Tunica adventitia is the outer layer of oesophagus that attaches food pipe with surrounding organs. 

Function of Food Pipe 

The functions served by food pipe is important to the understanding of what is oesophagus. 

  • It acts as the connection within the digestive system, passing through the thoracic cavity.

  • Oesophagus passes food through the thoracic cavity with the help of muscular contractions.

  • It helps in the separation of the ingested food into small particles, which is known as bolus.

  • Food pipe also performs a critical function of restricting food entry into the windpipe. It prevents such entry with the help of epiglottis movement.

  • It also ensures swift passage of food by way of rhythmic relaxations and contractions of the oesophageal muscles.

Do You Know?

Peristalsis is the movement of muscles to push down ingested food towards the stomach. Even when you are considering what is the meaning of oesophagus, it might be interesting to note that Peristalsis would also take place if someone is standing on their head! Moreover, the urge to defecate is also the result of Peristalsis function. 

Problems in Food Pipe in Human Body 

Oesophagus is vulnerable to a host of diseases –

  • Achalasia 

Loss of relaxation and contraction of muscles to move food particles. 

  • Oesophageal cancer

Cancer is of two types – adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

  • Barrett’s oesophagus

Ulceration or inflammation due to acid washback from the stomach. 

Few effective ways of maintaining good oesophageal health include –

  • Eating small meals at fixed intervals 

  • Avoiding carbonated drinks and fatty food intake 

  • Greater intake of fruits and vegetables

  • Refraining or quitting smoking 

Test Yourself 

i. Oesophagus provides a connection between -

(a) Throat and stomach 

(b) Mouth and throat 

(c) Stomach and large intestine 

(d) Mouth and stomach 

ii. Oesophagus is located _________ to trachea 

(a) Posterior 

(b) Lateral 

(c) Anterior 

(d) Dorsal 

[To check your answer, see the solution mentioned at the end of the article]

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Other Name of the Food Pipe?

Ans. Food pipe is also called oesophagus. It is a critical component of the digestive system in the human body, consisting of four layers, namely Mucosa, Submucosa, Muscularis, and Tunica adventitia.

2. What is Oesophagus?

Ans. Oesophagus definition is that it is a gastrointestinal tract made up of a muscular tube, which helps to connect the mouth with the stomach. It is approximately 25 cm long and 1.5 to 2 cm wide

3. What are the Major Functions of Food Pipe?

Ans. Main function of the food pipe is to connect the mouth with the stomach for passage of food and liquid. It is an essential component in the gastrointestinal tract and acts as a conduit for liquid and food.


i. (a) Throat and stomach 

ii. (a) Posterior