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For Find Out Friday - If Your Food Has Gone Down the Wrong Pipe, Where Is It?


I have and will continue to be writing about food this week and it has me thinking. 

If your food happens to go down the so-called wrong pipe, where is that exactly?

I’ll be honest I do not seem to know much about anatomy. In fact, the more I learn the more questions I seem to have. I can only truly grasp one body part at a time and usually that because something is acting up warranting my full attention.

That being said, the only thing I know about my throat is that once something goes into my pie hole, it is should descend.  

You know; God willing.   

But today I wanted to know more about what happen when that isn’t the path the food I have ingested takes.

Technically there are two “pipes” in your throat. However, only one is for food. That would be your esophagus. The other is your trachea, which is for breathing

When you swallow normally, food travels from your esophagus down to your stomach following your digestive tract. 

But when you accidentally send food down your trachea it can trickle down into your lungs. That is where you can get into trouble. 

Your body automatically sense a problem when something other than air enters your trachea. In order to remove it you will typically begin coughing until what is lodged in there comes up. 

If that does not work, the liquid and whatever else you swallowed can enter your lungs. That process is called aspiration. It can lead to pneumonia, a very serious condition that needs to be treated by a doctor ASAP. 

Luckily for most of us this is not an everyday condition. But for those suffering from dysphagia this is a chronic and dangerous problem. The causes can be neurological, mechanical, or even psychological.  Treatments vary due to cause.

Now that I have the word “aspiration” in my mind I have a strange story (or two) swirling around in my mind. Thankful they are not tales of my own but ones I have read about. 

Years ago I remember reading an online article about a man who had a cough he couldn’t get rid of. Then finally a doctor identified the problem. The man had a pea plant growing in his chest!!

Apparently this man had accidentally (who would do this on purpose) breathed in a seed sometime long ago and it eventually sprouted within his body. Certain seeds, like peas, can grow quite well in a dark, moist environment. It had to be removed surgically but there was no lasting damage. 

It appears this is a phenomenon that is more common than we could ever imagine.

The human body is a funny, quirky, yet brilliantly complex system.

From now on I am going to pay close attention as I chew my food and certainly when I take deep breathes.


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