The cardiac sphincter (SFINGK-tuhr) is a circular muscle located between the esophagus and the stomach. After the food enters the stomach, the cardiac sphincter closes to prevent the food from re-entering the esophagus. Food usually remains in the stomach for three to four hours. During this time, muscle contractions in the stomach churn the contents, breaking up food particles and mixing them with gastric fluid. This process forms a mixture called chyme (KIEM).
Peristalsis forces chyme out of the stomach and into the small intestine. The pyloric (pie-LOHR-ik) sphincter, a circular muscle between the stomach and the small intestine, regulates the flow of chyme. Each time the pyloric sphincter opens, about 5 to 15 mL (about 0.2 to 0.5 oz) of chyme moves into the small intestine, where it mixes with secretions from the liver and pancreas.
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