How We Breathe

Breathing is one of the most important bodily function. It affects many processes within the human body, and even brain development and functionality are directly connected to breathing. Even in newborn babies, a momentary loss of oxygen may cause irreparable brain damage as well as a bevy of other issues.

However, most people rarely think about breathing, and they do not start to think about it until the moment it becomes difficult for them. We even inhale at such a high rate that we are unsure as to how exactly we accomplish this.

Anyone who has ever gone out for a run is familiar with the feeling of exhaustion that comes from trying to catch your breath. All of the sensations in our nostrils, our heart, and our lungs are clear indicators that we need to breathe, but interestingly none of those reactions is the one that controls our breathing in the first place. The main organ responsible for breathing is the brain. The brain is the only organ responsible for forcing our body to breathe all the time. The issue is that we notice our need for drawing breaths only after exercising.

The human body is also perfectly configured to know how much air it needs exactly. The body registers the amount of exertion and then adjusts our breathing patterns accordingly. As we breathe, we inhale oxygen, and then that same oxygen is used to create more energy. As we exhale, we release the gas that is produced when the oxygen is processed in our lungs. This gas is known as carbon dioxide. The most important aspect of breathing normally is keeping oxygen and carbon monoxide dioxide levels balanced. If the body senses that the waste product building up is becoming too much for it to handle, it forces the lungs to work harder and take in more oxygen. For this exact reason, we start breathing heavier when exercising. For example, when we run or ride a bicycle, we begin to breathe more heavily. Our body starts to create more energy and we, in turn, produce more carbon dioxide.

The medulla oblongata part of our brain controls this bodily function. It is located in the lower part of the brain, near the spinal cord. Its primary role is to control our body’s involuntary functions. The involuntary functions are the ones our body does without us previously thinking about them. These are also functions that are necessary for our body to survive but we do not control. Some of the functions that belong to this group are vomiting, our blood pressure, and our heartbeat. As far as breathing is concerned, it is controlled by the respiratory part of the aforementioned medulla oblongata. This very center is where the receptors responsible for picking up levels of carbon dioxide are located. The receptors trigger a response as soon as they detect that levels of carbon dioxide are much higher in the blood than usual. This entire process happens automatically. This is necessary because we need to breathe during sleep as well and without those receptors, there is nothing that might force the body to continue breathing. Even the muscles responsible for controlling inhaling and exhaling function automatically.

However, as we all know, even though breathing is mostly an involuntary action, humans are still able to control it up to a certain extent. Taking deep breathes before performing any difficult operation has shown to be somewhat effective. Emotions may also influence breathing positively or negatively. This may bring oxygen levels down and cause drowsiness.

Choosing the most optimal breathing pattern is not always easy, but it does pay dividends.


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