The lungs are two organs that are protected by the thorax behind the ribs. One is on the right side and the other is on the left side. Each lung is made up of several parts called lobes ; Its tissue is soft and has the appearance of oval sacs connected to the trachea.

What are the lungs for?

The lungs serve two main functions :

  • Introduce air to the body , to take advantage of oxygen
  • Remove the carbon dioxide produced in the body

1. Introduce air to the body

The lungs receive the air inside them and are in charge of sending the oxygen from it to the blood ; Oxygen is a gas that supports the biochemical processes that occur in the body, so it has to be transported to each of the cells of all the tissues of the body. The blood is responsible for carrying it everywhere through its hemoglobin component .

The air necessary to provide oxygen to the body is breathed in through the nose, mouth, or both at the same time. The nose is the path that the air should preferably take , because through it it can be filtered more effectively than in the mouth; This reduces the amount of irritants that reach the lungs and also allows it to be heated and moistened .

The nose allows the entry of a small amount of air, so in situations in which we need a large supply of oxygen we begin to breathe through the mouth, and we obtain a greater volume of air to supply ourselves. It can be a very stressful situation, or when doing cardiovascular type physical work.

After entering through the nose or mouth, the air reaches the trachea , which is a tube located in the neck and in front of the esophagus. The food we eat travels through the esophagus. The path that food and air must take is controlled by the epiglottis , which is a muscle that acts as a “gate”, preventing the passage of food into the windpipe.

When food or liquid accidentally enters the windpipe, a strong cough and spasms immediately occur, which are the body’s defense mechanism against drowning. The air that enters the trachea reaches its divisions, which are two respiratory tubes called bronchi .

The bronchi in turn divide into smaller tubes called bronchioles and these, in turn, into tiny air sacs called pulmonary alveoli . The alveoli look like bunches of grapes attached to the tiny bronchioles. In normal lungs there are about 300 million alveoli. They don’t all work at the same time; there is a reserve for all conditions.

2. Take out the carbon dioxide

The lungs serve to remove carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) that is produced in the body due to biochemical processes. The procedure takes place in the alveoli, which are surrounded by very small blood vessels called capillaries , which surround the alveolus in a network. This is where oxygen enters the blood to fuel cellular processes.

The carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) rejected by the body is exchanged for oxygen, leaves the blood and enters the alveoli to be finally expelled from the lungs. The proper functioning of the body requires oxygen to enter the blood and carbon dioxide to leave the blood at a regular rate .

The lung also contains blood vessels and is lined with nerve fibers. Outside of the lung are two thin layers called pleurae . One of them surrounds the same lung and the other lines the interior of the thoracic chamber, near the ribs. Each lung has two networks of blood vessels. These vessels can be arteries or veins.

One of the networks of blood vessels carries blood to the lungs and provides the nutrients they need, while the other network is responsible for transporting oxygen to the rest of the body through the heart. Blood that has taken oxygen from the lungs, called arterial blood , returns to the left side of the heart where it is pumped to the rest of the body.

After oxygen has been distributed to all the cells of the body’s tissues and organs, the so-called venous blood returns to the right side of the heart, to get rid of carbon dioxide and take in new oxygen.

Samantha Robson
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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