The throat (pharynx—see also Throat Throat The throat (pharynx) is located behind the mouth, below the nasal cavity, and above the hollow tube that leads from the throat to the stomach (esophagus) and windpipe (trachea) (see figure A... read more ) lies behind and below the mouth. When food and fluids leave the mouth, they pass through the throat. Swallowing of food and fluids begins voluntarily and continues automatically. A small muscular flap (epiglottis) closes to prevent food and fluids from going down the windpipe (trachea) toward the lungs. The back portion of the roof of the mouth (soft palate) lifts to prevent food and fluids from going up the nose. The uvula, a small flap attached to the soft palate, helps prevent fluids from passing upward into the nasal cavity.
(See also Overview of the Digestive System Overview of the Digestive System The digestive system, which extends from the mouth to the anus, is responsible for receiving food, breaking it down into nutrients (a process called digestion), absorbing the nutrients into... read more .)
The Digestive System
The esophagus Overview of the Esophagus The esophagus is the hollow tube that leads from the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. Food does not just fall through the esophagus into the stomach. The walls of the esophagus propel food to... read more is a thin-walled, muscular channel lined with mucous membranes that connects the throat with the stomach. Food and fluids are propelled through the esophagus not only by gravity but also by waves of rhythmic muscular contractions called peristalsis. At either end of the esophagus are ring-shaped muscles (the upper and lower esophageal sphincters), which open and close. The esophageal sphincters normally prevent the contents of the stomach from flowing back into the esophagus or throat.
How the Esophagus Works
As a person swallows, food moves from the mouth to the throat, also called the pharynx (1). The upper esophageal sphincter opens (2) so that food can enter the esophagus, where waves of muscular contractions, called peristalsis, propel the food downward (3). The food then passes through the lower esophageal sphincter (4) and moves into the stomach (5).