Have You Forgotten How to Breathe?
There are 11 major systems in the body. When they’re taken care of, they run optimally. When they run optimally, you look & feel like your best, sexiest self (scout’s honor). We’ve already learned about the endocrine system and the nervous system, so today, we’re talking respiratory.
WHAT IS THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM?
The respiratory system is a series of organs responsible for taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. Red blood cells collect precious oxygen from the lungs and carry it to every other needed part of your bod. During this process, red blood cells collect carbon dioxide and transport it back into the lungs, where it leaves as we exhale. The primary organs of the respiratory system are the lungs, but it also deals quite closely with the trachea (aka, your pipe of wind) and the sinuses (which help to regulate the temperature of the air you’re bringing in).
The trachea branches out into two bronchial tubes (aka, bronchi), which swiftly carry oxygen into each lung. Each bronchi is lined — much like the intestines — with tiny “hairs” called cilia. Cilia move back and forth to carry mucus up, and (hopefully) eventually out via nose blowing, sneezing, coughing, spitting and swallowing. But why mucus, you ask? Having mucus and being able to excrete it is super healthy — mucus collects the dust, germs, and other matter that invades and threatens the lungs.
The right lung has three lobes, while the left has two. The left lung is also a bit smaller, to make room for heart. How magnificent is that? Each lung lobe is filled with 60 million tiny, spongy-like sacs called alveoli — this is precisely where the exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place, and the filling of your alveoli is what really makes the lungs expand. Picture that: 60 million tiny vessels of your being have been flooding with oxygen ~23,000 times a day for your entire life, all without your conscious attention. Trust your lungs! They love you!
Alveoli walls are uber thin (about 0.2 micrometers) and are composed of a single layer of tissues called the epithelial cells, as well as uber tiny blood vessels called pulmonary capillaries. Blood containing carbon dioxide passes through these capillaries, while freshly oxygenated blood goes to the heart through the pulmonary vein, where the heart then pumps it through the rest of the body.
WHAT DOES IT DO FOR ME?
The respiratory system causes you to breathe, without you even having to think about it! Though it is important to actually remember to take conscious, deep breaths throughout the day, your respiratory system is a brain of it’s own — working for you while awake and while asleep to keep oxygen flowing, stimulating, healing and nourishing every facet of your being. Since we’ve learned how crucial clean oxygen is to clean blood, and therefore a wholly clean body, we can give immense gratitude and send so much love to this beautiful system that’s holding us together.
WHAT HARMS IT?
Pollution, toxic scents, and stress. And you might be wondering: how do all the polluted particles and toxic materials around not penetrate the lungs and get trapped inside? Thank your pleural membranes for that one. These membranes protect the lungs and are separated by a fluid that allows them the slide around as you inhale and exhale.
Also, far too much talking, screaming, or the creation of loud noises can easily harm this delicate system. The respiratory system is not only important for breathing, but also for talking — above the trachea, you’ll find your larynx (aka, your voice box). Running across the larynx are two ridges (aka, your vocal chords) which open and close to make the unique sound that is your voice. Air exhaled through the lungs comes straight through the trachea and the larynx, reaching and reacting to the vocal chords. Be gentle with the sounds you make! Be an easy breather in this already so loud world.
And, I believe it goes without saying, but I must say it anyways: do not be smoking anything even remotely toxic or inorganic. Yes, there is many medicinal material that you may smoke that will actually prove to be respiratory-system health-promoting, but there are also far too many that are not. Remain mindful of what you’re bringing in and letting out.
WHAT NOURISHES IT?
Clean air, clean air, clean air, and you guessed it...more clear air. Also, taking conscious, deep breaths with other beings will connect you to the unity that is our miraculous bodies and beings. Being aware of the breath and the miracle that it truly is, is the most potent form of gratitude that we can give. Live in a toxic city? (Looking at you NYC and LA) Then surrounding yourself with air purifying and lung detoxifying plants, as well as medicinal essential oils via a diffuser will do wonders for your health. Remember: when you’re taking care of the lungs, you are also taking care of the blood.
Also, exercise! Keep your lungs and heart pumping to strengthen and detoxify daily. When your body is working through vigorous exercise, the lungs require significantly more air in order to provide all your cells with the oxygen they so need. The deeper you breathe, the and the more often you strengthen your lung’s capacity to hold fresh air, ergo the more fresh air they can in turn give your cells through the day (and night).
In short: please do not forget to breathe!