Located in your throat near your trachea (windpipe), the esophagus receives food from your mouth when you swallow. The epiglottis is a small flap that folds over your windpipe as you swallow to prevent you from choking (when food goes into your windpipe). A series of muscular contractions within the esophagus called peristalsis delivers food to your stomach.
But first a ring-like muscle at the bottom of your esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter has to relax to let the food in. The sphincter then contracts and prevents the contents of the stomach from flowing back into the esophagus. (When it doesn’t and these contents flow back into the esophagus, you may experience acid reflux or heartburn.)