The Respiratory System
You get a strong whiff of ammonia and start choking. The local ragweed pollen count is high, and you can’t stop sneezing. You have a cold and keep coughing up loose phlegm.
This is your respiratory system in action. The system acts as a first line of defense against body invaders-as in the case of harmful gases such as ammonia, and irritants such as pollen. It is also the mechanism by which oxygen is supplied to the body and carbon dioxide is exhaled. When this oxygen supply is cut off, death may result in a matter of minutes.
The organs and tissues involved in the respiratory system consist primarily of the following:
- The nasal cavity is lined with tiny hairs and sticky mucus, which catch foreign particles. Mucus contains antibodies and other chemical substances able to kill viruses and bacteria.
- The pharynx connects the mouth and nasal passages with the larynx, a muscle and cartilage substance in which the voice box is located.
- The trachea, commonly referred to as the windpipe, is the long passageway that transports air to the lungs.
- The bronchi are branches of the trachea that extend into the lungs. Together with the trachea, the structure resembles an upside-down tree.
- The diaphragm is a wall of muscle and connective tissue separating the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.
- Gas exchange and blood oxygenation take place in the lungs.
A baby is born with a healthy, pink pair of lungs, but smoking air pollutants take a toll, causing lungs to become dingy and gray. Unfortunately, clean air is the exception rather than the rule nowadays.
It is vital, then, to take much care to maintain a healthy respiratory system. By striving to breathe unpolluted air and shunning damaging habits such as smoking, we can protect our respiratory health.
Proper nutrition is also essential. Nature’s Sunshine Products offers many nutritional supplements beneficial for the respiratory system.
The Body’s Oxygen Supplier
Our respiratory system is essential to the growth and movement of the body. By supplying oxygen, this system enables us to produce energy. If the respiratory system’s efficiency begins to diminish, then the energy processes of our body also diminish.
The lungs are the center of the respiratory system, and the nose, throat and trachea (windpipe) comprise the respiratory tract. Breathing is usually automatic and regulated in the medulla oblongata of the brain but, of course, can be voluntarily controlled.
The bronchi, airways to each lung, divide into smaller airways called bronchioles. Each bronchiole ends in a cluster of tiny air sacs called alveoli. It is estimated that there are more than 300 million alveoli in the lungs. This is where the vital gas exchange takes place. The lungs contain as much as 40 times the surface area of the body’s external surface.
The Respiratory Process
Respiration isn’t simply “breathing.” The tern is used to describe all the processes associated with the release of energy in the body.
The blood carries food and oxygen to the cells so that the cells can produce energy for their needs. The simplified process is:
food + oxygen = carbon dioxide + water + energy
Oxygen is needed in the cells to break carbohydrates and fats into energy. About a quarter of a million tons of oxygen are used by the body each year. Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of cellular metabolism. But it is not just a waste product. Carbon dioxide is necessary for plant respiration. Plants release oxygen, their “waste product,” and the cycle between plant and man is repeated.
Gas exchange occurs in the lungs. The right side of the heart pumps blood with a high concentration of carbon dioxide into the lungs. The carbon dioxide is replaced with oxygen. The blood changes from a dark red to a bright red color, indicating that hemoglobin has picked up the oxygen. The oxygen-enriched blood is pumped through the left side of the heart and then circulated throughout the body. The carbon dioxide is then exhaled.
The respiratory system is sensitive to the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. If this amount rises, then the breathing response will increase so that more oxygen is available for energy metabolism.
Factors in Lung Health
We all begin life with a pair of bright, healthy pink lungs. But an adult with a smoking habit and living in a city has dull pink-gray lungs with black patches.
The respiratory tract is especially vulnerable to particles floating in the air. Professor Julius Comroe of the University of California estimates that city dwellers ingest 20 billion particles of foreign matter per day. The respiratory system has several ways of dealing with these particles. The cough and the sneeze reflexes are essential to life. They keep the passageways of the lungs clear of foreign matter. Cilia, the hairs in the nose, trap irritants, contaminants, bacteria, viruses, fungi, vehicle exhaust and other materials. But not all particles are trapped here.
Fortunately, there are also cells in the respiratory tract specially designed to engulf and rid the body of foreign particles. When this occurs, the blood supply increases, tissues are swollen, and extra mucus is produced. The lining feels uncomfortable and sore. Swelling and mucus obstruct the passages. Eventually the invaders are overcome and normal respiration can occur. If particles are trapped further down in the tract, bronchitis and asthma may result.
Since oxygen is so vital to the energy needs of the body, it is essential that we maintain healthy lungs by breathing unpolluted air as much as possible and by supplying the body in general with good nutrition.
Most Popular Natural Solutions for Respiratory Problems
ALJ – Developed as a nutritional aid for the respiratory system. Primary function relates to the head and respiratory system as a natural decongestant and a mild antihistamine.
Fenugreek & Thyme – Traditionally, used to aid in headaches brought on by sinus congestion. Primarily, softens and moves mucous from the head area.
HistaBlock – Mast cells are responsible for the drastic reactions that occur during seasonal respiratory attacks. HistaBlock is a unique formula that helps stabilize these cells and inhibits swelling that occurs in the mucous membranes.
Lobelia Essence – Historically used by Native Americans for respiratory problems associated with coughs and obstructions. Too much can cause “gag reflex.” Used on young children externally for asthma and bronchial spasms.