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Lungs are the most hard working and vital organ of the body. They are the main organs responsible in respiration and also body’s waste management process. Lungs are soft, spongy, paired, cone shaped organs located in thoracic activity and are enclosed by the thoracic rib cage. The right and left lungs are separated in the middle by the heart and mediastinum. The right lung is divided into 3 lobes – superior, middle and inferior lobes. The left lung consists of 2 lobes, the superior and inferior lobe.

The lungs are surrounded by a pleural membrane made up of outer parietal pleura and inner visceral pleura. Between these 2 layers exists, a small cavity called pleural cavity which is filled with lubricating serous fluid. The trachea (commonly called the windpipe) supplies atmospheric air to the lungs through its tube like branches called the bronchi. These bronchi undergo further divisions into smaller branches (Primary bronchi – Secondary bronchi – Tertiary Bronchi – Terminal Bronchioles – 2 or more Respiratory Bronchioles from each terminal bronchioles– 2 to 10 alveolar ducts from each respiratory bronchiole).

The alveolar ducts lead into closely packed thin walled sacs called the alveolar sacs. Each of these sacs opens into 2 or more alveoli. Alveoli are the functional units of the lungs where the gaseous exchanges happen. The oxygen from the air is absorbed into the blood in the alveoli. Also carbon dioxide, the body’s metabolic waste product present in the blood is absorbed by the alveoli and exhaled out.

Facts of Organ

Lungs differ in size

Right lung is larger but shorter than the left lung. The left lung is smaller as it accommodates almost 2/3 rd for the heart and the right lung is shorter as it makes space for the liver below.

Breathing rate and holding capacity depends on gender and age

Children and women breathe at a faster rate as compared to men. But holding capacity is greater in men. At rest, lungs of an adult man can hold about 750 ml of air. 

Main purpose of breathing - Expulsion of carbon dioxide

Air provides about 21% of oxygen, of which only 5% is required by the body. Rest of the breathing process involves expelling the waste gas, CO 2 out of the body.

Yawning is related to CO 2 levels in the body

Carbon dioxide gets accumulated in the body on shallow breathing. This is results in yawning. Thus deep breathing is required for effective elimination of the waste gas and for a fresh feel.

Exhalation results in water loss from the body

According to an article in the Journal Polish Pneumonology and Allergology (2012), when the body is at rest, human body exhales about 17.5 ml water per hour.

Lungs do not have their own specific muscles

The diaphragm and the rib cage support the lungs in its functions. They expand or contract to accommodate the lungs during inhalation or exhalation process.

100% lung capacity is not needed for normal functioning of the body

Even during strenuous exercise regime, only 70% of the possible lung capacity is required. A normal adult takes about 15 to 20 breaths per minute and about 20,000 – 30,000 breaths in a day. Also total air volume of lungs varies in relation to body weight, age, gender and health status. It is about 4 to 6 liters in a healthy person.

Alveoli are the functional units of lungs

Alveoli are the main unit of the lungs where the gaseous exchanges take place. According to studies, human lungs are made up of about 480 million alveoli. 

Lungs have a special self protection process

When a pathogen or pollutants enter the lungs through the inhaled air, globets cells lining the bronchi secrete mucus. This mucus entraps the foreign bodies and is driven out of the lungs by cilia cells. Thus the lungs are clean and germ free.

Functions of Organ

To supply oxygen from air to the body cells and to exhale waste gas, carbon dioxide from the body.

When a person inhales, the air passes through the throat and into the trachea (the windpipe). Then they enter the bronchi and pass into the lungs. Lungs expand to receive this oxygenated air and pass it to the alveoli. The capillaries surrounding the alveoli absorb the oxygen and pass it to the heart for distribution to the body cells via blood. The waste gas, carbon dioxide from the blood cells enters the blood stream and is passed to alveoli through the surrounding capillaries. The lungs compress and exhale the carbon dioxide absorbed by the alveoli. This gas exchange is needed for the normal functioning of the human body.



Pleura are double-layered membranes (parietal and visceral pleura) which surrounds each lung. Between the pleura is a small space called pleural cavity, which is filled with lubricating serous fluid. This fluid prevents friction between the 2 membranes and allows them to move easily during breathing.

Right & Left lungs

Occupying major space within the thoracic cavity, the lungs extend from the heart to the ribs and continue above towards the spine. The top or superior end of the lungs forms a rounded tip called the apex. The bottom or inferior end of the lungs is concave and is called the base.The inferior end rests on a dome-shaped structure, the diaphragm and moves in sync with the same during respiration process.


Trachea supplies air to the lungs through a tubular structure called the bronchi – left and right bronchi. A single primary bronchus supplies air to each lung and is further divided at different levels. This segregation helps in efficient and even distribution of air supply to the lungs. The bronchi are lined with pseudo stratified epithelium containing various cilia and goblet cells. Any foreign substance in the inhaled air like dust, bacteria, virus, and fungus etc stick to the mucus secreted by the goblet cells and are push out of the respiratory system with the help of the cilia cells. Hence these cells ensure that the lungs are clean and germ free 


The tertiary bronchi further branch out into smaller bronchioles made up of elastic fibers and smooth muscle tissues. These modulate the air supply to the lungs by either dilating when more volume of air is needed (E.g.: during exercise) or contracting to reduce the air volume (E.g.: when dust/pollutants are present in the air).


Terminal bronchioles branch out and end as the alveolar sacs. These sacs contain the alveoli, the functional units of the lungs. Alveoli help in gaseous exchange between the lungs and the blood in the capillaries of the lungs.

Food Tips


According to a study, consuming 2 to 5 apples per week reduced the risk of asthma by 32%. This can be due to the rich flavonoid content in apples. Flavonoids especially khellin are seen to calm and open up airways.

Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables

According to a Japanese study, high intake of vitamin C reduced the risk of asthma. Vegetables like brussels sprouts, tomatoes, citrus fruits like orange, grapefruit, kiwi and fruits like cantaloupe are rich sources of vitamin C. 

Seeds, Nuts and Beans

Seeds like flaxseeds, nuts and beans are rich sources of magnesium. Studies suggest that magnesium eases the muscles around the bronchi and airways, in turning keeping them open and providing relief from asthmatic symptoms.

Dark Berries

Blackberries, blueberries and raspberries are rich sources of antioxidants. Regular consumption of dark berries reduces the risk of lung cancer and lung infections.


Onions are rich source of folic acid and vitamins (B6, C). In addition to their various health benefits, onion helps reduce the risk of lung cancer development.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables belong to the cabbage family and comprise of broccoli, cauliflower etc. They contain a substance called indole-3- carbinol which help in cell repair and prevent the formation of cancerous cells. Research suggests that increased intake of cruciferous vegetables lowered the risk of lung cancer by 40%.

Carotenoids Rich Foods

Foods like oranges, papayas, peaches, pumpkin, apricots, red bell peppers and carrots are rich in caretonoids called beta-cryptoxanthin. This caretonoid acts as an anti-oxidant and reduces the risk of lung cancer. Also when ingestion, caretonoids get converted into vitamin A and help reduce symptoms related to asthma.

Lifestyle Tips

 Quit smoking

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, likelihood of lung cancer is 15 to 30 times more in smokers than non-smokers. Cigarette smoke contains about 7000 chemicals and at least 70 of these cause direct cell damage.

Stay hydrated

Water is an important cleansing agent. It helps in the cleansing and detoxification process of the lungs. To keep your lung healthy, drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water per day. Lime or an antioxidant fruit/vegetable can be added to enhance the flavor of the water.

Regular exercises

For a healthy lung, deep breathing exercising should be practiced regularly. Also aerobic exercises are seen to enhance lung capacity.

Balanced and healthy diet

Balanced high fibers diet with fresh vegetables and fruits not only relieve the symptoms associated with lung disease, but also improve the general health status. Avoid high intake of foods like wheat, soy, meat, corn, milk, as they have mucous producing tendency. Also high intake of salt increases asthmatic symptoms. Hence reducing sodium intake relieves asthma and also other health conditions.

Avoid exposure to pollutants

Exposure to chemicals and air pollutants can increase the risk of lung disease and worsen the condition. So for healthy lungs, avoid exposure to cigarette smoke, polluted air and household chemicals. Passive smoking and radon, a radioactive gas from uranium are the 2 main causes for lung disease in non smokers.

Regular Heath checks

Lung diseases are difficult to cure as they are usually detected at last stages with serious co- morbidities. Hence for effective treatment and cure, regular checkups are advised even for healthy people.

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