Your lungs do more than just help you breathe!
The lungs are an extremely important organ. They help our body to harness the oxygen we need from the air and then transfer it to our blood to be circulated throughout the body, as we need it. Whilst this is the most vital role that the lungs play, it is not the only one! Read on to find out more information about the ‘other’ functions and processes the lungs are involved in:
PH balance regulation
Our lungs help regulate our carbon dioxide levels in the blood, which allows our body to maintain safe blood pH levels. If our blood has too much carbon dioxide in it, our pH levels decrease (more acidic). If these levels drop too low, our nervous system can be affected! Thankfully, our lungs detect and manage this process by increasing ventilation, which gets rid of excess carbon dioxide in our breath.
Virus + bacteria line of defence
The passageways of our respiratory tract are lined with mucus and little hair-like projections known as ‘cilia’. If we inhale a pathogen that is foreign to our body, such as dust particles or bacteria, this mucus lining traps the foreign object and then the cilia helps move it along – either upwards to be expelled out in a cough, or downwards into the digestive tract where they are destroyed by the enzymes in the digestive system.
Blood clots are something we do not want to allow into our bloodstream! The lungs again act as a barrier of defence, and have the capacity to filter out small blood and fibrin clots as well as bubbles of air, known as air embolisms, if they were to occur.
Our lungs really are fantastic at detecting and adapting to changes in our body! The lungs work as a reservoir for blood. They have the ability to change how much blood they contain at any moment and are very quick to respond to changes. How does this help? Consider exercise – if the heart needs a lot of blood for more cardiac output to cope with exercise, the lungs and heart will interact to ensure more blood flows that way. What a partnership!
Humanity’s most favourite pastime. What would we do without constant airflow? We wouldn’t be able to speak. Consider that your lungs hold the power of your speech – speaking when out of breath results in a very soft, stressed tone. However, if you take a nice deep breath before speaking, your voice will generally be loud, powerful and command attention!