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Does The Diaphragm Contract During Inhalation

by Lyndon Langley
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Does The Diaphragm Contract During Inhalation

Does The Diaphragm Contract During Inhalation

The human body has an amazing respiratory system that extracts oxygen from the atmosphere and then releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Without this process, humans would not exist; they could never survive in our current environment. But how does the body extract oxygen from the atmosphere? How do you breathe when you’re lying down or unconscious? These are all questions that scientists continue to ask themselves as we strive to understand the complicated process of respiration.
In order for us to breathe properly, we must have a good understanding of the anatomy involved in breathing. We know that the diaphragm plays a very important role in proper breathing. It’s located at the bottom of the rib cage (the part of your chest containing ribs) and it separates the thorax from the abdomen. When you inhale, your stomach expands and fills with air and during the same time your chest cavity enlarges. Your lungs fill up with air and blood circulation increases throughout the body. This increase in blood circulation allows more nutrients and oxygen to be delivered to every part of the body. At the same time, the diaphragm moves downward toward the pelvis due to the increased pressure within the chest cavity. As the diaphragm descends, it pushes against the abdominal organs causing them to move upward and forward. This movement of the abdominal organs helps to expand the abdomen and allows air to pass over them. Therefore, if the diaphragm doesn’t contract, the abdomen will not adequately expand during inhalation. This can lead to several problems including decreased lung capacity, poor performance on sports tests and even death.
When you exhale, everything reverses itself. The diaphragm rises and the chest cavity narrows while the lungs deflate. The reduction in pressure allows blood to flow through the arteries back to the heart. At the same time, the abdominal organs return to their normal position, allowing air to pass over them. If the diaphragm did not reverse direction, the abdominal organs would block the passage of air through them.
This diagram shows the movements of the major parts of the body during inhalation and exhalation.
As shown above, the diaphragm plays such an important role in the process of respiration. However, many people don’t realize that there are actually two different types of diaphragms – the dome type and the cup type. The dome-shaped diaphragm is attached directly to the top of the liver and spleen. It surrounds the entire lower portion of the esophagus. The cup-type diaphragm attaches to the front wall of the abdomen just below where the bladder meets the rectum. Since these two diaphragms play such an essential role in the functioning of the digestive tract, they receive little attention from medical researchers.
There are also other muscles associated with the diaphragm that help regulate the process of breathing. One muscle called the intercostal muscle connects each rib to the next one above and below it. Another muscle called the transverse abdominis extends across the midline between the left and right sides of the abdomen. Both of these muscles assist in regulating the diameter of the chest cavity. The pharynx is another muscle situated near the opening of the throat behind the soft palate. This muscle controls swallowing, speech, etc.
Other structures that play key roles in the process of respiration include the vocal cords, epiglottis, trachea, bronchial tubes, larynx, eustachian tube, sinuses, nasal cavities, tongue, teeth and neck bones. All of these structures work together to make sure that the diaphragm is able to function properly.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the anatomical aspects related to respiration, let’s take a closer look at what happens when someone becomes short of breath.
Shortness of Breath
If you were to stand straight up with your mouth wide open, you’d quickly become dizzy because you wouldn’t be able to see anything beyond about four feet in front of you. You’d soon realize that standing upright without seeing anything isn’t really possible since most of the world’s population stands bent over at least some of the time. What causes this problem? Our bodies require oxygen in order to live but we can only absorb so much oxygen at any given moment. Therefore, our bodies need to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. A person can only hold enough carbon dioxide to metabolize the amount of oxygen he/she absorbs. Carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen, so it floats up toward the head and leaves the body via the nose and mouth. Oxygen passes from the lungs into the bloodstream and travels around the body delivering energy to cells. Once the oxygen reaches the tissues, it produces heat and chemical reactions that release carbon dioxide.
During inhalation, the diaphragm contracts and flattens and the chest cavity widens. This contraction creates a vacuum, which pulls air into the lungs. Because of the size differences between men and women, men tend to have greater lung capacities than women. Men generally have larger lungs than women. Women may have smaller hearts and less room in their chests, making it difficult for them to fit large lungs into their chests.
Shortness of breath can result from several things. Some patients may suffer from conditions like asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, congestive heart failure or pulmonary edema. Other disorders like obesity, smoking, diabetes and cancer could cause shortness of breath. Shortness of breath can also occur when you lie down flat. Lie down on your side and put your hand under your cheekbone. Now lift your upper lip upwards and touch your finger tip to your uppermost tooth. Feel the rise in the inside of your upper lip. That is the location of your carotid artery. The distance from this point to the outer ear indicates the depth of your chest cavity. If you find yourself having trouble getting used to this new measurement, try taking deep breaths by holding your breath until you feel lightheaded. Then slowly exhale until you no longer feel faint.
If you’re interested in learning more about respiration, check out the links on the following page.
People who smoke cigarettes often notice a change in the way they breathe. Smoking reduces the volume of air available for respiration. Also, smokers usually inhale faster than non-smokers. Smokers’ breaths contain higher levels of carbon monoxide. This gas prevents the transfer of oxygen to hemoglobin molecules. Hemoglobin is required for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Consequently, smokers experience hypoxia, a condition characterized by low levels of oxygen in the blood stream. Hypoxia leads to fatigue, headaches, nausea, weakness, irritability, lack of coordination, etc.

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