Difference Between Peristalsis and Segmentation

The human body has so much of process that happens within. From respiration to taking food and the digestion of food and muscles contractions involved in the process, there are complex reactions that go on in the body. 

Such two contractions happen in the body, known as Peristalsis and Segmentation. They both are a kind of movement, but former is a one-direction motion whereas the latter is responsible for the movement in both the direction.

Peristalsis vs Segmentation

The main difference between Peristalsis and Segmentation is that Peristalsis is the rhythmic contractions of longitudinal muscles in the Gastro-Intestinal tract, whereas Segmentation is the contractions of the circular muscles in the digestive tract. The start of Peristalsis happens in the esophagus. Segmentation predominates in both the large intestine and the small intestine. peristalsis leads to high-speed propagation of food, and slow-propagation of food takes place in case of Segmentation.

Peristalsis and Segmentation

Peristalsis is the wave-like rhythmic contractions, happen in the esophagus, which is responsible for the movement of food downwards. It is a one-way motion in the caudal direction. In Peristalsis, both circular and longitudinal muscles are involved, and it occurs in the whole GI tract. It is less responsible for the mixing of foods, and this is a slow process.

Segmentation is a muscle-type movement that happens in the small intestine, which mainly helps in the mixing of food. The motion is in both the direction back and forth, and circular muscles are involved in the contractions. It also helps in breaking the chyme into smaller pieces. It does not produce any net movement of foods in a particular direction.

Comparison Table Between Peristalsis and Segmentation

Parameters of ComparisonPeristalsisSegmentation
DefinitionA type of smooth muscle movement in the GI tract, which pushes the food downward in one direction.A type of smooth muscles contractions that occur in the small intestine and don’t cause net movement of food inside the GI tract.
Types of MusclesIt is due to contractions of circular muscles and longitudinal muscles. Rhythmic contractions of the circular muscles are the reasons for segmentation.
OccurrenceIt mainly predominates in Esophagus.It predominates in the small and large intestines.
Type of MovementThe movement of peristalsis is in a one-way motion in the caudal direction.The movement of segmentation is in both directions, and it also allows a greater mix.
Speed of PropagationHigh-speed propagation of food happens as a result.In segmentation, there is a slow propagation of food.

What is Peristalsis?

Peristalsis, which is also known as Propulsive contractions, is a rhythmic contraction of both circular and longitudinal muscles that pushes the food downward. These contractions are in the caudal direction and follow a one-way motion that means it works only in one way and occurs in the esophagus. It is an alternate relaxation and contraction in the Gastrointestinal tracts. Since it is the movement in only one direction, hence the mixing of food with the secretions is low.

It is responsible for breaking down and mixing food with other secretions. But as compared to segmentation, the breaking down of food is slow, but the progression of the bolus through the esophagus is comparatively high. It mainly occurs in the whole GI tract.

It helps in the digestion of food by moving solids or liquids within a tube-like structure of the urinary and digestive tracts. It is involuntary muscle movement that cannot be controlled consciously. Sometimes, peristalsis doesn’t work properly, and thus you can get a sign like constant diarrhea or constipation. 

What is Segmentation?

Segmentation which is also known as Mixing contractions involves contractions of circular muscles in both the direction back and forth in the digestive tract. It occurs in the small and large intestines and also slows down the propagation of food. There is no net movement of food in the tract. Since the movement is in both directions, the mixing of chyme with the secretion is very thorough and is properly mixed.

It helps in breaking down food into small pieces and helps in easy digestion and also facilitates absorption. Unlike peristalsis, it does not push the food, but it mashes it and breaks it furthermore. It is the movement of muscles that is divided into segments. They mainly use mechanical and 

Furthermore, It can be triggered by pacemaker cells, hormones, chemicals, etc. Factors such as hormones or nervous factors can initiate and maintain the segmentation. 

Main Differences Between Peristalsis and Segmentation

  1. Peristalsis occurs in the esophagus, whereas Segmentation occurs in the large and small intestine
  2. Peristalsis is a wave-like rhythmic contraction, whereas Segmentation is a muscular type movement.
  3. Peristalsis drives the food down, and it moves in a caudal direction in a one-way motion, whereas Segmentation occurs in both directions and doesn’t have any net movement of the food.
  4. Peristalsis involves contractions of both circular and longitudinal muscles, whereas Segmentation involves contractions of the circular muscles.
  5. In peristalsis, there takes place only some mixing of chyme with secretions, whereas in segmentation, there takes place a thorough mixing of chyme with the secretions.
  6. In peristalsis, the breaking of the food takes place at a low rate whereas, in Segmentation, the breaking of food takes place is high.
  7. High-speed propagation of food takes place in the case of Peristalsis, whereas in Segmentation, there is a slow transmission of food.


Both are the type of movements only, but they are different in their directions. Peristalsis is a one-way motion for the propulsion of food, and the consequences are the high -propagation of food. Segmentation, on the other hand, is the motion that goes on back and forth and also slows the propagation of food, but it allows greater mixing of food. 

Although there are differences between them, there are some similarities also. They both help in mixing, breaking, and movement of foods. They both are initiated and maintained by a number of hormonal and nervous factors. They both are types of muscular contractions.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc1609499/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028216537601
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