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Peristalsis is the rhythmic contraction of smooth muscles to propel contents through the digestive tract. The word is derived from New Latin and comes from the Greek peristaltikos, peristaltic, from peristellein, "to wrap around," and stellein, "to place."
In much of the gastrointestinal tract, smooth muscles contract in sequence to produce a peristaltic wave which forces a ball of food (called a bolus while in the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract and chyme in the stomach) along the gastrointestinal tract. Peristaltic movement is initiated by circular smooth muscles contracting behind the chewed material to prevent it from moving back into the mouth, followed by a contraction of longitudinal smooth muscles which pushes the digested food forward.
In the esophagus
After food is chewed into a bolus, it is swallowed to move it into the esophagus. Smooth muscles will contract behind the bolus to prevent it from being squeezed back onto the mouth, then rhythmic, unidirectional waves of contractions will work to rapidly force the food into the stomach. This process works in one direction only and its sole purpose is to move food from the mouth into the stomach.
In the esophagus, two types of peristalsis occur.
In the small intestine
Once processed and digested by the stomach, the milky chyme is squeezed through the pyloric valve into the small intestine. Once past the stomach a typical peristaltic wave will only last for a few seconds, traveling at only a few centimeters per second. Its primary purpose is to mix the chyme in the intestine rather than to move it forward in the intestine. Through this process of mixing and continued digestion and absorption of nutrients, the chyme gradually works its way through the small intestine to the large intestine.
During vomiting the direction of peristalsis reverses to move food back into the stomach, though the propulsion of food up the esophagus and out the mouth comes from contraction of the abdominal muscles; peristalsis does not reverse in the esophagus.
As opposed to the more continuous peristalsis of the small intestines, fecal contents are propelled into the large intestine by periodic mass movements. These mass movements occur one to three times per day in the large intestines and colon, and help propel the contents from the large intestine through the colon to the rectum.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Peristalsis". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|