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What is the Esophagus?

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Updated October 04, 2010

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What is the Esophagus?

The Esophagus

Photo © A.D.A.M.
Definition: The esophagus is an organ made up of smooth muscle tissue that moves food from the back of the throat (the pharynx) to the stomach. This action is known as peristalsis.

The esophageal sphincter is close to the bottom of the esophagus. This muscle, which operates like a gatekeeper, normally prevents food and stomach acid from coming back into the esophagus after it has reached the stomach.

When the sphincter fails, it can cause acid reflux, which can lead to heartburn symptoms.

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