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Peristalsis – Process of Food Movement

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In order to be absorbed into the watery blood plasma, large, insoluble food molecules must be broken down into smaller, water-soluble food molecules during digestion. These tiny molecules enter the bloodstream through the small intestine in some organisms. Based on how food is broken down, digestion, a type of catabolism, is sometimes separated into two processes: mechanical digestion and chemical digestion. When a large food item is physically broken down into smaller pieces so that digestive enzymes can access them, this process is referred to as mechanical digestion. Mastication in the mouth and segmentation contractions in the small intestine are two examples of mechanical digestion. Enzymes break down food into little molecules that the body can use during chemical digestion.


Peristalsis is a contraction and relaxation of food in the esophagus, where the food is forced to go down to the stomach. The muscles involved in moving food and other particles through the digestive tract to other different processing organs that are located in the digestive system can be thought of as successive wave-like contractions.

Its involuntary nature makes it essential for moving food through the stomach and bowels through the anus. The esophagus, stomach, and intestines all go through a process known as peristalsis and depending on where they are located, the waves may be brief, continuous, or perpetual and travel the entire length of the organs.



Peristalsis in the Digestive System

Four separate organs in the digestive system participate in the peristaltic action. The esophagus, the stomach, the small intestine, and the large intestine are these four organs.

Esophageal Peristalsis

  1. Peristalsis, which happens in the esophagus, begins at the top end of the food pipe or esophageal tube and then travels the entire length to the stomach, pushing all the food particles along the food pipe. One wave takes around nine seconds to cross the entire esophageal tube.
  2. The second wave removes any food fragments that may still be present in the esophageal tube. The entire process is referred to as esophageal peristalsis.
  3. Once the stomach is full of food, the peristaltic waves will stop. Up until gastric juices dissolve the extra lipids in the food particles, these peristaltic motions are stopped.
Peristalis Esophagus


Peristalsis in the Stomach

  1. The stomach receives bolus, or ball-like food fragments, following esophageal peristalsis.
  2. The bolus is compressed and broken down even more through the process of stomach peristalsis, which is followed by a degree of hydrolysis of the food particles inside the body.
  3. Peristalsis is typically seen as modest contractions at the beginning of the stomach that gradually intensify in the distal regions or components of the digestive system.
  4. Pepsin is an enzyme that aids in the breakdown of food particles. All food particles are partially digested during the hydrolysis process; this material is now referred to as chyme.
  5. The partially digested food, known as chyme, will now remain in the stomach for a while before being propelled into the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine, where it will undergo more digestion.
  6. The stomach, which can hold up to 4-5 liters of food at once, is particularly crucial for food storage. Because of this, partially digested food will remain in the stomach for a short while.

Intestinal Peristalsis

Both the small intestine and the large intestine engage in this intestinal peristalsis.

Small Intestine

  1. One peristaltic movement, which occurs when this chyme goes from the stomach to the small intestine, lasts only a few seconds and moves at a speed of a few centimeters per second.
  2. The preliminary or main purpose of the small intestine peristaltic movement is to keep the process of food digestion and nutrient absorption going.
  3. Once these processes are complete, the chyme travels from the small intestine to the large intestine.
Peristalsis in Small Intestine


Large Intestine

  1. The large intestine experiences the same peristaltic movement as the small intestine.
  2. Peristalsis of the kind used by the small intestine exists in the big intestine as well, but it is not the main propulsion.
  3. Instead, one to three times daily, the large intestine undergoes broad contractions known as mass movements, which push the chyme (no feces) in the direction of the rectum.
  • Peristalsis in Urinary System: Peristaltic movement aids in the transport of urine throughout the body. Peristalsis is the movement of fluid from the kidneys to the bladder by two tubes in the urinary tract known as ureters. Urine is the next fluid to leave the body through the urethra.

Disorders Associated with Peristalsis

The following are a few of the problems brought on by incorrect peristalsis:

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

  1. The condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a moderate form of acid reflux that develops when stomach acid rushes back into the esophagus on a regular basis. This can irritate the esophageal lining.
  2. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach, is impacted by this condition.

Hirschsprung Disease

  1. The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is dysfunctional in Hirschsprung disease, which results in intestinal obstruction.
  2. Because the ENS regulates motility, its absence will impair peristalsis to the point where the food’s contents are prevented from passing through further.
  3. The myenteric plexus and submucosal plexus are then both impacted.


  1.  Dysphagia is a condition where esophageal peristalsis is compromised. As a result, persons with this illness have trouble swallowing, which increases the time and effort required to transfer food or drink from the mouth to the stomach.

Esophageal spasms

  1. The muscles in the esophagus can spasm due to a few different types of diseases.
  2. Food may be regurgitated as a result of acute or intermittent spasms.

Reverse Peristalsis

  1. This type of peristalsis is an intestinal contraction wave that moves counterclockwise to the typical wave, which pushes food in the tube in the reverse or backward direction. As a result, it is often referred to as anti-peristalsis, reverse peristalsis, or retro peristalsis.
  2. It is the opposite of involuntary smooth muscle contractions, which work as a precursor to the action of vomiting. The emetic center of the brain is activated by stomach irritation, particularly food poisoning, which prompts an instant vomiting reflex.

Functions of Peristalsis

  1. The food is forced into the stomach and down the esophagus by the peristaltic movement.
  2. The peristaltic movement in the stomach aids in the storage of food, the breakdown of food particles, and the mixing of these particles with gastric secretions that are secreted from the stomach lining. Additionally, it aids in the partial digestion of food, or chyme, in the body.
  3. The peristaltic action in the small intestine aids in digestion by moving partially digested food from the stomach to the small intestine. It aids in the bloodstream’s ability to absorb nutrients from digested meals.
  4. The small intestine does complete digestion.
  5. The peristaltic action in the large intestine assists in passing bodily waste and the organ through the colon, into the rectum, and then out of the body through the anus.

FAQs on Peristalsis

Question 1: What is peristalsis?


Food in the esophagus undergoes a contraction and relaxation process known as peristalsis in order to move down to the stomach. It is possible to imagine the muscles that move food and other particles from the digestive tract to other processing organs in the digestive system as successive wave-like contractions.

Question 2: How does peristalsis defend against gut infection?


Peristaltic waves are crucial for eliminating gas from the large intestine and for preventing bacterial infections and development.

Question 3: What organ undergoes peristalsis?


The esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines are among the organs where peristalsis takes place.

Question 4: How is food affected by reverse peristalsis?


Usually, it happens before throwing up. Food flows in the other way during this reverse peristalsis, frequently from the duodenum into the stomach.

Question 5: What is dysphagia?


When the esophageal peristalsis is compromised, dysphagia results. Dysphagia is a condition that makes swallowing food difficult and makes moving food or drinks from the mouth to the stomach more laborious.

Question 6: What are the functions of peristalsis?


  • The peristaltic movement forces the food down the throat and into the stomach.
  • The stomach’s peristaltic action helps with food storage, breaking down food into smaller pieces, and combining those smaller pieces with gastric secretions that are released from the stomach lining. Additionally, it helps the body’s chyme, or partial digestion of food, to occur.
  • By transferring partially digested food from the stomach to the small intestine, the small intestine’s peristaltic activity helps in digestion. It helps the bloodstream better absorb the nutrients from digested food.
  • Wholesome digestion occurs in the small intestine.

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Last Updated : 25 Sep, 2022
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