Respiratory System


Most of the time you don’t notice the act of breathing. It occurs between twelve to twenty times in a minute. Every day and every night you are breathing. This is due to the respiratory system in your body. Expanding and contracting, the lungs supply the oxygen your body needs to sustain life. As the body exhales, it removes the carbon dioxide that has become waste.

The Function of Breathing

Breath begins in the nose and the mouth. As you inhale air into your mouth or nose, it then begins travelling down into the back of your throat and into your trachea (windpipe). The trachea is divided into air passages that form the bronchial tubes. In order for your lungs to perform optimally, the airways must be open when you inhale and exhale. They should be free from any type of swelling of inflammation or excessive amounts of mucus.

The bronchial tubes pass through our lungs and they become divided into smaller airways known as bronchioles. They end in a tiny balloon-like air sac that is known as the alveoli. The body contains as many as 300 million alveoli. A mesh of tiny blood vessels known as capillaries surround the alveoli. It is here that the oxygen from the air you inhale is passed into the blood through the walls of the alveoli.

Once the body absorbs the oxygen the blood will leave the lungs and travel to your heart. The heart then pumps the blood through the body’s cells, organs, and tissues to provide oxygen. The cells use the oxygen and product the carbon dioxide that is absorbed back into the blood. Then the carbon dioxide is carried by the blood back up to the lungs where it leaves on exhale.

The Function of the Diaphragm in Breathing

Exhalation and inhalation are the process for the body to bring in oxygen and to get rid of the carbon dioxide. The large dome-shaped muscle that is under the lungs is called the diaphragm. It aids in the process of breathing.

As you inhale, the diaphragm will contract in a downward motion. This creates a vacuum that will cause the fresh air to fill the lungs. On exhalation, the opposite occurs. As the diaphragm returns to an upward positioning, it pushes on the lungs thus helping them deflate.

Clean Air

There are built-in methods in the respiratory system to prevent substances that could be harmful from entering into the lungs. Your nose has small hairs that help to filter out certain particles. These cilia or microscopic hairs form along the airway passages and the constantly move in a sweeping fashion to keep the passageways clean. When harmful substances like exhaust or even cigarette smoke are inhaled, it causes the cilia to not function as well. This can cause health problems such as bronchitis.