The Respiratory System

"Many healings of other physical troubles have occurred in my clients after they started to integrate breathing practices into their lives. There is a simple but encompassing reason that may explain this. The human body is designed to discharge 70% of its toxins through breathing. Only a small percentage of toxins are discharged through sweat, defecation, and urination. If your breathing is not operating at peak efficiency, you are not ridding yourself of toxins properly.”

- Gay Hendricks. PhD

"Breath is life. If you breathe well you will live well."

- Indian Proverb


The Respiratory System is the set of organs that allows a person to breathe and exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body. An example of respiratory system is the human's nasal passages, larynx, trachea, bronchial tubes and lungs.

Organs involved

  • Nose
  • Pharynx
  • Larynx
  • Trachea
  • Bronchi
  • Lungs

Most people breathe shallowly, not having the full benefit of expanding the lungs wide and open. By doing so, you are releasing old toxins. You can detoxify simply by taking a deep breath.

Top 5 Functions of the Respiratory System: A Look Inside Key Respiratory Activities

Through breathing, inhalation and exhalation, the respiratory system facilitates the exchange of gases between the air and the blood and between the blood and the body’s cells. The respiratory system also helps us to smell and create sound. The following are the five key functions of the respiratory system.

1)  Inhalation and Exhalation Are Pulmonary Ventilation—That’s Breathing

The respiratory system aids in breathing, also called pulmonary ventilation. In pulmonary ventilation, air is inhaled through the nasal and oral cavities (the nose and mouth). It moves through the pharynx, larynx, and trachea into the lungs. Then air is exhaled, flowing back through the same pathway. Changes to the volume and air pressure in the lungs trigger pulmonary ventilation. During normal inhalation, the diaphragm and external intercostal muscles contract and the ribcage elevates. As the volume of the lungs increases, air pressure drops and air rushes in. During normal exhalation, the muscles relax. The lungs become smaller, the air pressure rises, and air is expelled.

2) External Respiration Exchanges Gases Between the Lungs and the Bloodstream

Inside the lungs, oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide waste through the process called external respiration. This respiratory process takes place through hundreds of millions of microscopic sacs called alveoli. Oxygen from inhaled air diffuses from the alveoli into pulmonary capillaries surrounding them. It binds to hemoglobin molecules in red blood cells, and is pumped through the bloodstream. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide from deoxygenated blood diffuses from the capillaries into the alveoli, and is expelled through exhalation.

3) Internal Respiration Exchanges Gases Between the Bloodstream and Body Tissues

The bloodstream delivers oxygen to cells and removes waste carbon dioxide through internal respiration, another key function of the respiratory system. In this respiratory process, red blood cells carry oxygen absorbed from the lungs around the body, through the vasculature. When oxygenated blood reaches the narrow capillaries, the red blood cells release the oxygen. It diffuses through the capillary walls into body tissues. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide diffuses from the tissues into red blood cells and plasma. The deoxygenated blood carries the carbon dioxide back to the lungs for release.

4)  Air Vibrating the Vocal Cords Creates Sound

Phonation is the creation of sound by structures in the upper respiratory tract of the respiratory system. During exhalation, air passes from the lungs through the larynx, or “voice box.” When we speak, muscles in the larynx move the arytenoid cartilages. The arytenoid cartilages push the vocal cords, or vocal folds, together. When the cords are pushed together, air passing between them makes them vibrate, creating sound. Greater tension in the vocal cords creates more rapid vibrations and higher-pitched sounds. Lesser tension causes slower vibration and a lower pitch.


5) Olfaction, or Smelling, Is a Chemical Sensation

The process of olfaction begins with olfactory fibers that line the nasal cavities inside the nose. As air enters the cavities, some chemicals in the air bind to and activate nervous system receptors on the cilia. This stimulus sends a signal to the brain: neurons take the signal from the nasal cavities through openings in the ethmoid bone, and then to the olfactory bulbs. The signal then travels from the olfactory bulbs, along cranial nerve 1, to the olfactory area of the cerebral cortex.

Important POINTS:

The lungs are essential for human life. They work almost tirelessly, pulling in air and dumping out what can’t be used over and over, day and night. Breathing brings in oxygen and expels carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism. Breathing is also essential to our ability to talk and sing.

The lungs are made of hundreds of thousands of branching tubes that end in tiny air sacs, or alveoli. There are over three hundred million of these tiny sacs in our lungs, offering roughly the surface area of a tennis court to keep up with the respiratory demands of the body. The membranes of these tiny air sacs are also thinner than tissue paper to maximize the exchange of gases. In many ways, especially in light of Radiant Detox, we can say breathing and the respiratory system is an example of detoxification.


Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water every day helps maintain a healthy weight and gives a thin consistency to the mucus lining in your airways and lungs. Dehydration can cause that mucus to thicken and get sticky, which slows down overall respiration and makes you more susceptible to illness.

Increase Your Walking Speed

There was a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at 34,000 people, age 65 and older. The subjects who averaged 2.25 mph or faster lived longer than those who walked more slowly.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess weight puts stress on your lungs and compresses all respiratory muscles, making them work harder and less efficiently.

Learn Breathing Techniques

Are you a shallow breather? You may be if most of your breaths come from your chest area. There are several different techniques that are excellent for teaching your body to take deeper, longer breaths.

Consider Chiropractic Care

After having a chiropractic adjustment, many people comment along the lines of, “I feel like I’m taking in more air.” One study on over 5,000 people showed that chiropractic intervention improved overall breathing in 25% of the study participants.


Blue is the color of the sky (air) and the sea (water). Both of which are the most important elements for a healthy, clean, respiratory system.

Spices good for the respiratory system: Eucalyptus, Lungwort, oregano, peppermint, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, garlic and thyme.

Herbs/teas: Sage is a natural expectorant. Expectorant is a word derived from the Latin “expectorare” which literally means to expel from the chest. Natural expectorants like sage aid in the clearance of mucus within your body and keep your cough in control. A drop of sage in tea or hot water could help you get over your next cold. Peppermint tea of course has been used since time immemorial.

Essential oils: There are so many essential oils that address the respiratory system. That is because of the olfactory element of essential oils. When inhaled, they impact our body in such miraculous ways- first being through the nasal passage - part of our respiratory system. So to keep this short and simple we’ll give the biggest supporters of the RS. Lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, teas tree (melaleuca), peppermint, chamomile, bergamot, rosemary, silver fir, frankincense, pine and ravensara.

Herbs/teas: Sage is a natural expectorant. Expectorant is a word derived from the Latin “expectorare” which literally means to expel from the chest. Natural expectorants like sage aid in the clearance of mucus within your body and keep your cough in control. A drop of sage in tea or hot water could help you get over your next cold. Peppermint tea of course has been used since time immemorial.

Functional Foods that aid in cleansing and maintaining a healthy respiratory system

Pure clean water - Its essential to keep blood flowing to and from our lungs. It also keeps our lungs hydrated and the mucus flowing. It may sound disgusting, but that mucus is important and needs to be the right consistency for the cilia to move it—along with toxins, microbes, and pollutants—out.

Garlic and onions assists with cleansing the respiratory tract by expelling mucous build-up in the lunges and sinuses. These pungent foods are great for the heart and thus the lungs too. They reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and fight infection.

Ginger – This spice has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes the elimination of pollutants from the lungs.

Chili Peppers – Peppers are filled with capsaicin, the spicy compound that gives them their bite. Capsaicin improves blood flow, stimulates mucus membranes, and fights infection.

Cruciferous Vegetables – Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale have been shown to halt the progression of lung cancer and cut the risk of developing lung cancer in half. They are rich in chlorophyll that cleans and builds blood, and full of some very effective antioxidants.

Pomegranates – Pomegranate juice slows the growth of lung tumors. Pomegranates contain many antioxidants including ellagic acid, which is gaining strides in cancer research.

Turmeric – This spice is related to ginger with many of the same benefits. It also contains curcumin, a compound that encourages the self-destruction of cancer cells.

Apples – Flavonoids, vitamin E, and vitamin C all help the lungs function at their best. Apples are rich in all of these and those who eat several a week have healthier lungs.

Grapefruit – Naringin, a flavonoid in grapefruit, inhibits the activation of a cancer-causing enzyme. White grapefruit contains a high amount of this flavonoid, though pink grapefruit has some too along with the antioxidant lycopene. Grapefruit is especially good at cleansing the lungs after quitting smoking. 

 Beans, Seeds, and Nuts – These all contain rich amounts of magnesium, a mineral that contributes to healthy lung function. They also provide essential fatty acids that are good for the cardiovascular system.

Carrots – These roots are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene, all antioxidants that affect lung health and lower the chances of developing lung disease.

Oranges – Citrus is rich in vitamin C and vitamin B6. These help the lungs transfer oxygen.

Pumpkin – Pumpkin is another food rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, like carrots.

Red Bell Pepper – These mild peppers are rich in vitamin C and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids have been shown to cut the risks of developing lung cancer.


Key nutrients that help the endocrine system 

Vitamin A,  folate and all the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, echinacea, quercetin, bromelain and arabinogalctan (AG).


Movement + Exercise

Exercise is also important. It doesn’t necessarily strengthen the lungs as they rely on the diaphragm muscle, but any improvement of the cardiovascular system makes the job of the lungs easier. Do something active for 30 minutes each day to lighten the load on your lungs and increase the efficiency of oxygen transportation and metabolism. These 30 minutes can even be broken up throughout the day. Park further from the grocery store, take the stairs, get up from your desk and walk around the building, do some jumping jacks, walk your neighborhood, or even run in place for a bit.

Yoga Poses 


Low Lung- This pose opens the chest. Low lunge stretches the hip flexors and when we lean back, the whole front body including the chest and shoulders. Keep the back foot toes curled underneath the foot. This helps to engage the small muscles in the feet. Without actually moving the knee, visualize the back knee being magnetized toward the front foot. This subtle micro-movement will help the pelvic floor to lift. Ok, from here, bring the hands to the heart and exhale the upper back back as you look up. Relax shoulders away from the ears and feel the shoulder blades melt down the back. Breathe 5-7 full breaths here. 

Modified Bridge Pose - Roll a bath towel up and place on your mat. Lie down so your shoulder blades are just over the roll and stretch your hands over your head placing them very relaxed on the ground behind you. Stay in this pose for up to 5 minutes. Very relaxing and opening  the chest. 

Camel Pose - Stretches the front of the body, particularly the chest, abdomen, quadriceps, and hip flexors. It improves spinal flexibility, while also strengthening the back muscles and improving posture. This pose creates space in the chest and lungs, increasing breathing capacity and helping to relieve respiratory ailments. This pose energizes the body and helps to reduce anxiety and fatigue.

  1. Begin by kneeling upright with your knees hip-distance apart. Rotate your thighs inward and press your shins and the tops of your feet into the floor. Do not squeeze your buttocks.
  2. Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, with your fingers pointing to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone down toward the floor and widen the back of your pelvis.
  3. Lean back, with your chin slightly tucked toward your chest. Beginners can stay here, keeping their hands on their back pelvis.
  4. If you are comfortable here, you can take the pose even deeper. Reach back and hold onto each heel. Your palms should rest on your heels with your fingers pointing toward your toes and your thumbs holding the outside of each foot.
  5. Keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor, with your hips directly over your knees. If it is difficult to grasp your heels without feeling compression in your low back, tuck your toes to elevate your heels. You can also rest your hands on yoga blocks placed to the outside of each foot.
  6. Lift up through your pelvis, keeping your lower spine long. Turn your arms outward without squeezing your shoulder blades. Keep your head in a neutral position, or allow it to drop back without straining or crunching your neck.
  7. Hold for 30-60 seconds. To release, bring your hands back to your front hips. Inhale, lead with your heart, and lift your torso by pushing your hips down toward the floor. Your head should come up last. When you are done rest in Child's Pose. 


Day One Focus: Breathing

Breathing...ahhh...something most of us, more or less, take for granted. In fact even when we try and hold our breathe, our body won't let it hold longer than it's supposed to and expels the carbon dioxide before it's too late. Of course for those with asthma, COPD, TB, pneumonia, sleep apnea, lung cancer, influenza and other disease that directly impact the lungs and cause difficulty in breathing, breathing does not come naturally. There is so much we could say about breathing, but we will limit this to a few practical exercises that will immensely help us on multiple levels - from stress, to lower blood pressure, to better heart rate variability, to better sleep. 

Deep Diaphragrmic Breathing

This is something I've been practicing for some time now, and it's wonderful! It is very calming and centering, and important for good health.

Begin by engaging your abdomen, filling up your abdomen like a balloon, activating your lungs. All three chambers of your lungs will be activated First we move up to the mid chest, feel your chest expand, then up into the upper chest where you feel a slight opening in your clavicle, or collarbone. Hold for a brief moment and on the exhale you're going to slowly release, collapsing your clavicle, feel the chest caving in and finally your navel will come all the way back to the spine expelling that last drop of air. This is a long, deep, conscious breath. 

I would really like to encourage everyone, if you do any of the practices in this detox program, please, please let this be the one. It's that important. It will calm you, bring you into sharp focus, help you to gain balance and to be even keeled. Do it in traffic when you're in rush hour. Do it at any time you need to, but do it! I make sure I practice this at least 5-15 minutes every morning, most mornings. 



Affirmations for a healthy Respiratory System


  • I breathe life to it's fullest 

  • My lungs are strong and healthy

  • I eat foods that help me breath well

Advanced Protocol: 

1) Hyperbaric chamber - Hyperbaric oxygen therapy uses a special pressure chamber to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. The air pressure inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber is about two and a half times higher than the normal pressure in the atmosphere. This helps your blood carry more oxygen to organs and tissues in your body. We know and understand that in the presence of oxygen, it is hard for cancer cells to survive. 

 2) Breathing apparatuses - These can range from a simple, inexpensive devise that helps you increase your breathing capacity, to quite expensive ones that professional athletes use to have a competitive advantage.  

3) Air filters - It is well understood that indoor toxins are worse than outdoor toxins. This is why especially in the winter months when we tend to be indoors more, it's important we think about the quality of air inside our homes. There are certain household plants that can help remove a percentage of toxins like phthalates (these chemicals are flame retardants in our couches, mattresses, children's pajamas, etc.). You can also get a central system for around $1,000 or individual space air purifiers for individual rooms. Some of the central air purifiers guarantee 99.5% removal of toxins. I don't know about you, but since I spend so much of time inside my home (working out of a home office) this is an option to really consider. 


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