The Respiratory System

The Respiratory System

When we draw in the breath of life, we share that air with all other human beings and life on the planet.  It is through respiration that our oneness with the all becomes a manifest fact, and our communication with the ocean and the earth has an immediate impact.

Every minute, usually unconsciously, we breathe in and out between ten and fifteen times.  We move enough air to and fro every day to blow up several thousand balloons.  In this way, the body extracts the oxygen it needs from the air and discharges waste carbon dioxide from the blood.

Whilst only one-fifth of the air is oxygen, this is needed by every cell in the body to release the energy that is locked in food reserves.  Many cells can survive for a period of time without oxygen, others need a constant supply; brain cells die if they lack oxygen for more than a few minutes; brain cells cannot be replaced.

Supplying the cells of the body with oxygen is the responsibility of the respiratory and circulatory systems.  This process is controlled by the brain via the medulla oblongate in the brain stem, where messages concerning blood composition are integrated with other information, therefore regulating the appropriate breathing rhythm.

If there are respiratory disturbances that inhibit gas exchange in the lungs, they can lead to a lowering of the body’s vitality, an increase in metabolic disorders, and to the degeneration of tissue.

The anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system are complete embodiments of integration of the wholeness.

We are not only what we eat, but also what we breathe.  Any problems with breathing will not only affect other organs and systems but may well cause disease in these systems.  The body is a whole when the lungs need to be treated, we also have to look at the circulatory system; much of what has been said about the heart and the circulation is relevant to the lungs.  We need also to look at the condition of the digestive system, and especially of the organs of elimination, as the lungs share the role of removing waste along with the bowels, the kidneys, and the skin.  If a problem develops in any of these systems, the body compensates by increasing the load on the others.  There are limits, however, to the amount of waste the lungs can put up with if, for instance, the bowels become clogged up.

Most pathological changes in tissue can be prevented if the cells of the body are constantly rich in oxygen.  The amount of oxygen which the circulation supplies to the tissue is largely controlled by respiration.

From all this, it is apparent that the best preventative measures for this system are regular exercise and good breathing.  While we take breathing for granted, conscious and proper breathing is regarded, even in orthodox medical circles, as invaluable.  The central role of the breath in many spiritual paths should perhaps give us a clue here.

As with all disease, the best prophylactic is the right lifestyle; diet, exercise and quality of life all have a profound influence on the health of the lungs.

To ensure healthy lungs, the inner environment must be in harmony, and so also must the outer environment.  If the air we breath is polluted it will disrupt the ecology of the lungs just as it disrupts the ecology of any forest.  Air contaminated with chemicals and particles, gases and smoke, should be avoided, which brings us to the subject of tobacco.  Smoking puts a wall of tar and ash between the individual and the world so that a free ecological flow cannot take place in the lungs.  This can lead to an impressive host of problems, from bronchitis to cancer, without taking into account all the effects of a diminished oxygen supply to the rest of the body.  If we are to heal ourselves and our world, and the body and what it takes in is a good place to begin.

(Ref, David Hoffmann)


How does the Respiratory System work?

The main organs in the respiratory system are the lungs, which in their simplest form are nothing more than air sacs.  As the body inhales, the lungs are filled with fresh oxygen-rich air.    The heart pumps blood into the walls of the lungs where it absorbs the oxygen and releases carbon dioxide.  As the body exhales, the carbon dioxide is released back into the air around the body.  Each breath taken oxygen is absorbed, each breath pushed out releases carbon dioxide.

When air is breathed in, it passes down the trachea, this divides into two airways called the main bronchi, which go to the two lungs.  Each splits into smaller bronchi, called alveoli.   From the lungs, blood returns back into the heart where it is pumped out to the rest of the body carrying oxygen along with it.

The lungs are protected by the rib cage, which is made up of twelve sets of rib bones, which are connected to the spine in the back.  Behind the lungs is the diaphragm, which is a dome-shaped muscle that works with the lungs to allow for inhalation and exhalation.  Rib muscles also lift the ribs up and outwards to give the lungs more space.

If the body cannot breathe, the cells of the body won't get the oxygen they need.  If this happens the cells will quickly begin to die.  Within only a few minutes the body will die, this shows how important breathing is.