What Is the Function of the Respiratory System?


If the human body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs, it won’t be able to sustain itself and that’s why it has the respiratory system.

Like many other systems in the body, the respiratory system is a series of different organs and as they work together, they enable the body to breathe in oxygen and when it is done with it, breathe it out as carbon dioxide.

What is the Function of the Respiratory System The main organ in our respiratory system is the lungs and this is where it all happens. The red blood cells in the body will collect oxygen when it passes through the lungs and as they move around the body, they take the oxygen to the places that need it. Once it’s out of oxygen, they start to collect carbon dioxide instead, taking it back to the lungs so that it can be breathed out.

What organs make up the respiratory system? 

There are a lot of different individual parts of the body to ensure your respiration system is up and running and if just one of those parts goes wrong, the rest fail to some extent. This will be when breathing problems occur.

Nose / mouth: This is where it starts. We breathe in and oxygen enters the body through the nose and mouth.

Sinuses: The oxygen hits the sinuses first (hollow spaces within your skull) and this helps to regulate the temperature.

Trachea: Also known as the windpipe, this acts as the filter to the air that the body has inhaled.

Bronchi: The trachea passed the oxygen onto the bronchi (these are transportation tubes which carry the oxygen into the lungs) and are covered in little hairs called cilia which filter out any mess and clean up through mucus. The mucus traps the bad stuff and then it is exported from the body in sneezes, coughs and in saliva.

Bronchial tubes: These lead right into the lungs and there is more space on the right hand side than on the left to allow room for the heart. On the left, there are only two ‘lobes’ but on the right, there are three.

Alveoli: These are in the lungs and are spongy-sacs in which the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide take place.

Pulmonary artery: This transports carbon-dioxide rich blood back into the air sacs so that they can be exhaled.

Pulmonary vein: This transports the oxygen-rich blood to the heart where it then gets pumped around the rest of the body.

Diaphragm: This helps to keep a safe distance between the abdominal cavity and the chest cavity. It’s a muscle, domed in shape, and it contracts and expands as you breath to allow for more room.

Diseases of the respiratory system 

When one part of the respiratory system doesn’t work correctly, it will have an impact on all the other parts and in turn, this can seriously negatively effect the entire body.

The diseases of the respiratory system will fall into one of two brackets or categories – general viruses or chronic diseases.

General viruses: Bacterial pneumonia, flu, enterovirus respiratory virus can be included here and these cannot generally be treated with antibiotics. The body will naturally fight off a virus on its own but sometimes it needs a little longer than at others. Pneumonia (for example) is a lung infection and bronchitis is a bronchial tube infection. The latter two are conditions that generally will need antibiotics for treatment.

Chronic diseases: COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, asthma (chronic inflammation of the airways and lungs), emphysema and chronic bronchitis can be included here. Tuberculosis is another very dangerous disease that can be progressive and will end up not only destroying the lungs, but other parts of the body also.

There are other diseases which will impact the respiratory system. Tonsillitis, for example, can affect the entire throat making it hard to breathe as well as swallow. General colds and flu will also have an impact on the way the system works.

One final medical complaint is lung cancer which obviously has very serious repercussions. This is a mutation of cells, causing them to overgrow into tumors and will spread and affect other areas of the body if left untreated, causing other cancers to form.

Lung cancer is said to kill between 16,000 and 24,000 American citizens every year and some of these victims won’t have smoked. Smoking is one of the main risk factors for lung cancer.

How to keep your respiratory system healthy 

There are a number of things you can do to keep your respiratory system working as it should be.

Exercising on a regular basis is essential and you should aim for between three to five periods of activity lasting thirty minutes per week to start with. You can increase the intensity of this over time.

Eat a diet that is both healthy and balanced. Eat all the food groups but eat the bad stuff in moderation, and allow yourself to have an alcoholic drink from time to time. Make sure that you also have a high-nutrient diet, eating foods that offer the body a lot in nutritional value.

Foods rich in zinc, potassium, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E are encouraged. Foods that offer these include oranges and other citrus fruits, leafy greens, and oily fish such as tuna and mackerel. You should also look at eating a handful of nuts on a daily basis – perhaps add some chopped almonds to your breakfast oats, or look at adding peanuts to your salad.

Drinking plenty of water will offer you added hydration and will encourage cell rejuvenation and repair. That also includes keeping your airways, lungs and other vital respiratory organs in good condition.

Do not smoke. Smoking is the number one cause of almost all the respiratory diseases you are likely to encounter. If irritating the airways and depositing tar and other chemicals into your lungs wasn’t bad enough, cigarettes will also sharply increase your chances of getting lung cancer. Cigarette smoke, even second-hand passive smoking, is filled with carcinogens which cause cells to mutate.

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