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Definition of Peristaltic Movement and its Functions

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Peristalsis is an automatic movement that occurs in the body, precisely in the digestive area. This movement supports the digestive process, from when we eat, digest, defecate, and urinate. However, there are times when peristaltic movements are disturbed due to certain conditions so that peristaltic movements do not occur or antiperistalsis occurs.

What is the peristaltic movement?

The digestive tract is a series of hollow organs that form one long passage. The passageway is lined with muscles and nerves that are in charge of digesting food.

When you swallow, food and liquid begin to enter the digestive tract, and automatically the nerves will trigger the muscles to start a series of wave-like contractions called peristalsis.

Peristalsis is a series of muscle contractions in the digestive tract that occur automatically from the moment food enters the esophagus when swallowing until it descends into the digestive tract.

Definition of Peristaltic Movement and its Functions

Peristalsis occurs because smooth muscles move like waves, so they are able to move food and fluids in the digestive tract until they are finally expelled through the anus or urethra.

This movement is a normal function of the body and sometimes you can even feel the gas moving in your stomach. Peristalsis also occurs in the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder.

Peristaltic movement function

Peristaltic movements function to move food through the digestive system starting from the moment of swallowing and continuing into the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. 

Peristalsis allows the body to digest food by moving food through each stage of digestion. Peristalsis is a slow, but steady movement and is important for maintaining healthy digestion. This movement allows the body to break down food and absorb the nutrients it needs.

In addition to moving food, peristatic also serves to clean the pile of bacteria and waste products of digestion from the digestive tract in a timely manner.

If peristalsis is disturbed, such as being faster or slower, then the digestive function will also be disturbed. When the digestive system is empty, for example when fasting or sleeping at night, peristalsis continues to clean food debris in the digestive tract.

Where does peristalsis occur?

Peristalsis is the movement that occurs throughout your digestive tract.

1. Esophagus

The esophagus is the main site of peristalsis. When you swallow, the upper throat ( pharynx ) will begin the process of pushing food down the esophagus (food pipe) which leads to the stomach.

In the esophagus, there are primary peristaltic waves triggered by the swallowing movement and secondary peristaltic waves which occur when the first wave is insufficient. A second movement can occur when triggered by stretching of the wall of the esophagus if the food to be swallowed is large.

2. Stomach

After the esophagus, peristalsis continues through the stomach and small intestine. Peristaltic movements will slow down to allow segmentation, which is a stirring motion that allows food to mix with gastric juices so that it can be broken down into smaller pieces. This is to make food easier to digest.

3. Intestines

Peristaltic movements and segmentation are still ongoing up to the intestines. This movement also allows the gallbladder to move the bile contents into the small intestine to aid digestion and absorption of nutrients. This movement occurs throughout the digestive process to the end of the large intestine.

4. Kidneys and urethra

Peristalsis also makes it possible to move fluid from the kidneys to the bladder. Peristalsis in the urethra helps expel fluid in the form of urine from your body.

5. Rectum and anus

At the end of the digestion of food, peristalsis in the rectum and anus will function to remove feces in the form of feces from the body.

Mechanism of peristalsis

The squeezing motion of the peristaltic muscles is described as wave-like, as the muscles contract and relax in a continuous pattern to move food downwards.

This movement involves:

  • The circular muscle that encircles the tube of the digestive tract
  • Longitudinal muscles that span the walls of the tube

Circular muscles move by squeezing and expanding in synchrony to propel food through the passageway, while longitudinal muscles propel all food forward.

The wave-like pattern is clearly visible in the early stages of digestion, whereas at the end of digestion, it only takes a few contractions to push food waste out of the body.

Peristaltic movement disorders

Peristaltic movements may be too slow (hypermotility) or too slow (hypermotility).

There are several causes of motility disorders, including:

  • Drug side effects
  • Due to other disease processes
  • Idiopathic or the cause is unknown.

Some examples of diseases that can cause peristaltic movement disorders to include:

1. Dysphagia

Dysphagia is a condition of difficulty or inability to swallow food and liquids that can be caused by several things such as head trauma or strep throat. This condition can affect peristalsis in the esophagus.

2. Spasm of the esophagus

The esophagus experiences aberrant muscular contractions known as esophageal spasms.It can be caused by several different forms of the disorder. This condition can be brief or severe, making it harder for food to reach the stomach and causing vomiting.

3. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Although the relationship between the two is still under research, there is a suspicion that GERD may also have a relationship with motility disorders that affect peristaltic movements.

4. Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis occurs when peristalsis occurs in the stomach. In this condition, the stomach muscles fail to function to move food into the small intestine, so you can experience nausea and vomiting.

5. Pseudo-intestinal obstruction

Bowel obstruction is a condition of blockage in the intestines. This condition can occur when the movement of food is blocked by something, such as a narrowing of the intestine. However, in pseudo-obstruction or pseudo-obstruction, there is no blockage in the intestines, but the digestive system is disturbed as if there is a mechanical blockage thereby affecting peristalsis. This is a rare condition.

6. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

People with IBS may experience irregular peristaltic movements, including hypermotility, hypomotility, or both in sequence. This condition can make you have diarrhea or constipation.

When certain types of health problems occur, the muscles of the digestive organs can perform antiperistaltic movements or reverse peristalsis. This is a condition when the contents of the stomach move in the opposite direction and are pushed from the intestines to the stomach, causing vomiting.

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