Swallowing is a highly complex process involving the coordination of more than 26 muscles and six nerves.
For this process to occur smoothly, the body must also co-ordinate the breathing cycle during the swallow. Swallowing interrupts breathing. At the exact moment you swallow, you must momentarily hold your breath to close the airway. Closing the airway prevents any food or fluid from entering the lungs.
The normal swallow–breathing cycle (shown in steps 1 to 4 in the following diagram) should only take a few seconds to complete.
The swallow-breathing cycle