For food and liquids to travel from the mouth to the stomach, they must pass through the esophagus. Made of both fibrous and muscular tissue, the esophagus is about ten inches long and stretches from the throat to the top of the stomach. Mucus that lines the esophagus provides lubrication for the swallowed material. Additionally, contractions push residual material into the stomach. Most people are never aware of their esophagus until they swallow something that is too hot or cold.
The esophagus begins in the back of the mouth. Like the tongue, the upper portion of the esophagus has many taste buds. From the mouth, it passes through the compartment of the torso that houses the heart and other thoracic vessels. Then it passes the diaphragm, a sheet of muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. In the abdominal cavity, the esophagus connects to the stomach. A branching network of nerves begin at the vagus nerve and cover the esophagus, controlling the heart, lungs, and digestive tract.
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