Ed Golson Outdoor Education

Respiratory system

The respiratory system deals with the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange (better known as breathing).  Our bodies need oxygen in order to turn food into energy, but that process creates a lot of excess carbon dioxide. The respiratory system works to even everything out. We breathe in air that is rich in oxygen through our nose and/or mouth and we exhale carbon dioxide.  The primary function of this process is to provide oxygen for the bloodstream to pick up, and to "drop-off" the carbon dioxide.  So what makes this system work?  There are actually a number of organs and tissues that work together to complete the process. 

These parts are: mouth, nose, larynx, trachea, lungs, diaphragm, bronchi, bronchial tubes, and alveoli.  No part alone makes up this system; it is a function of the group.

So how does this whole process work?  First you breathe in the oxygen from your nose and/or mouth.  Next the oxygen will travel past the larynx- the space in the back of your mouth- and into the trachea, which is the tube leading into the lungs.  After the air passes through the trachea, it splits off into the bronchi which splits again and carries the oxygen to the bronchial tubes that even further split into about 600 million sacs called alveoli where the oxygen ends up.  Once the oxygen is in the alveoli, the capillaries surrounding them will take oxygen into the bloodstream and gives the alveoli the carbon dioxide back to the alveoli, which becomes part of the circulatory system. This whole process is powered mostly by the layer of muscle directly under the lungs called the diaphragm. When the diaphragm contracts and relaxes, it helps to pull the oxygen in and push the carbon dioxide out. 

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