With around 37 trillion cells and 78 organs all working in tandem, the human body is an incredibly complex and efficient machine. Each part of your body has a specific function, and when everything is working as it should, you’ll be happy, healthy, and productive in your day-to-day life.
Possibly one of the most fascinating components of your body are your lungs. While we often take healthy lung function for granted, lungs are actually crucial to your overall health and well-being. Let’s take a look at five interesting and little-known facts about the lungs.
Lungs Are the Only Organs That Can Float
That’s right, out of all the organs in the human body, the only ones that can float are your lungs. This is because, when lungs are filled with air, they are less dense than water. In fact, if you didn’t have lungs, it would be difficult or impossible to float on water.
Many people with low lung function, such as people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), may find it difficult to float because they have limited lung function. What’s more, people with higher body density (i.e. more muscle and less fat) will also find it difficult to float.
Mucus Keeps You Alive
You know that sticky, annoying substance you tend to cough up when you’re sick or stuffed up? That’s mucus. Despite it being a nuisance at times, it’s actually crucial for your health. Without it, you could die!
Most mucus comes from the mucosal glands found in your nasal passage. When mucus is produced, it coats the nose, mouth, throat, and lungs, keeping them moist and healthy. When you inhale, mucus traps and disposes of bacteria before it reaches your lungs. Without this function, you could get very ill.
Lungs Impact Your Cardiovascular Health
Your heart is undeniably the most important organ in your body. But did you know that taking care of your lungs can help your heart as well? Your heart and lungs are connected via a complex vascular network called the pulmonary loop. This carries deoxygenated blood to your lungs for disposal and brings oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart.
In other words, breathing clean air and strengthening your lungs by exercising and improving your diet has a direct impact on your heart health. This is why people who suffer from chronic respiratory illness often experience complications with their heart.
Lungs Have More Than One Function
While the main function of the lungs is to take in oxygen-rich for your body to use in cellular respiration, this is not their only function. The other important function of the lungs is to expel carbon dioxide which is a waste product for your body.
Hypercapnia is what results when your body retains too much CO2. Mild symptoms include dizziness, headaches, and shortness of breath. However, severe hypercapnia can lead to hyperventilation, loss of consciousness, and even seizures.
Your Lungs Have Taste Receptors
Believe it or not, the lungs actually have taste receptors similar to the taste buds found in your mouth. However, the ones in the lungs do not send signals to the brain. Instead, they can cause the airways to open or close.
Scientists have found that bitter-tasting compounds such as saccharine or quinine can enhance or even replace current asthma treatment because it opens the airways and allows for easier breathing. While this medication likely won’t be arriving for some time, it’s something for people with chronic lung disease to look forward to.
The lungs are one of the most important and interesting organs in the body. By exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding cigarettes and other inhaled substances, you’ll ensure full-body wellness.