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Biology 10, Lesson 150 – Breathing Hard, Is It Because of Lack of Oxygen?

Have you ever done strenuous activity and suddenly finding yourself breathing hard?  Your heart is pounding and you are gasping for breath.  When this happens, is it because there is not enough oxygen in your lungs or do you have too much carbon dioxide?

The quick and easy answer to this question is: there’s too much carbon dioxide in your blood.  But what does your body do when it detects this?

When there is too much carbon dioxide, or Co2, in your bloodstream, the breathing control centre in your brain (the medulla oblongata) will send signals to your lungs to contract and relax harder to balance out the oxygen and Co2 in your blood.  While this is happening, the cerebrospinal fluid that is in your spinal cord is absorbing the Co2, and other chemicals, from your blood and converting it into ions.  These ions will help control the pH in your bloodstream, making it easier for you to breathe.

As you can see, while you may be panting and puffing for air, your brain is sending out all sorts of signals to the rest of your body to help you catch your breath.  Next time you find yourself gasping for breath and you are looking for someone to blame, you can blame your brain for making your lungs contract and relax so fast.

Thanks for reading!


Author: sophiaelahirpc

10th Grade student in the Ron Paul Curriculum. Full-time teen writer living in Singapore.

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