Hello, I Am Your Lungs!
What your Lungs do is pretty obvious. You breathe in Oxygen and breathe out Carbon Dioxide. This is called Gas Exchange and it actually happens on a microscopic level inside a structure in your Lungs called Alveoli. On average, an adult has about 300 million Alveoli or little air sacs in their Lungs. This is approximately 30% more than is needed for normal activities. The more physically fit you are, especially with respect to cardiovascular endurance, the more you will stimulate, open and clear these little bubbles of life.
If you are more sedentary, breathe polluted air or have chronic respiratory problems, your Alveoli will be more filled with mucus, be less available to Gas Exchange and have a harder time clearing themselves.
This happens for two fundamental reasons:
Even if you breathe as deep as an Opera singer, your lung’s ability for gas exchange is all about the tiny blood vessels around your Alveoli called Capillaries. If you are not a deep breather, your heart function is diminished of your lungs produce more mucous or other fluids than necessary, your Capillaries will not get enough direct exposure to the air in your Lungs.
“Nothing could be worse for this situation than chronic exposure to noxious gases and potentially toxic microscopic bits of ash.”
Every day, your lungs clear mucous secretions and dust particles with tiny hair-like structures called Cilia. These microscopic ‘limbs’ create a virtual fire-brigade (pardon the pun) by bending down and grabbing some dust/phlegm and then extending upwards to hand it off to the next Cilia. That is a bit oversimplified, but it should give you a sense of how your lungs ‘mechanically’ create those yellowish green lumps of yuck!