To maintain homeostasis, the respiratory and circulatory systems collaborate. The respiratory system is responsible for transporting gases into and out of the bloodstream. The circulatory system transports blood throughout the body. Both the respiratory and circulatory systems are controlled by a complex network of nerves called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The parasympathetic branch of the ANS promotes relaxation of muscles and organs, while the sympathetic branch stimulates muscle contraction and activity. When there is a disturbance in the balance between these two branches, it can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, rapid heart rate, and heavy breathing.
When you experience a stressor or danger signal, your body responds with activation of the sympathetic branch of the ANS. This results in increased heart rate and blood pressure, glucose release from the liver, and excretion by the kidneys. These changes help you deal with the threat against which they are protecting you. The parasympathetic branch of the ANS is involved in recovery from stressors; when resources are restored, the level of sympathetic activation decreases and the level of parasympathetic activation increases. For example, after a period of intense fear or anger, the body's response is one of withdrawal from the situation causing the stress response. As it withdraws energy from other parts of the body to cope with the stressor, it needs to restore that energy later on.
The Crucial Idea The respiratory and circulatory systems transport oxygen and nutrients to and from the cells. The bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli are all found in the lungs. These organs play a crucial role in removing harmful substances from the body by way of exhalation (breathing out) and inhalation (breathing in). The circulatory system is responsible for delivering blood to every part of the body via the arteries, capillaries, veins, and lymphatic vessels. The heart is the main driver of this system; it sends electrical signals to various muscles in the body that control the opening and closing of valves allowing blood to flow in one direction only. These signals are also responsible for causing hearts to contract and relax at regular intervals so that they can keep up with daily activities and sleep cycles.
There are two main types of respiratory diseases: chronic and acute. Chronic diseases include asthma, emphysema, and cystic fibrosis. With these conditions, the airways become swollen or damaged over time, making it difficult for them to clear mucus or expel pollutants. As a result, symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and pain may occur frequently. Acute diseases include pneumonia and influenza.
Here are two examples of how human organ systems assist the body in maintaining homeostasis:
The respiratory system collaborates with the circulatory system to supply oxygen and eliminate metabolic waste products. It also aids in the regulation of blood pH. Respiration is the process through which oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the environment and the cells of the body. The two main organs involved in respiration are the lungs and the heart.
Lungs: The lungs consist of a network of airways that lead into alveoli where gas exchange takes place. Gas exchange is the process by which gases are transferred across a barrier, in this case, the thin membrane called the alveolar wall. Oxygen enters the body through the nose or mouth and flows into the airways where it is absorbed by small sacs called alveoli. These sacs are where gas exchange occurs between blood and air. When you breathe in, oxygen from the air enters these sacs where it is taken up by hemoglobin in your red blood cells. This binds to oxygen, making it transportable by blood throughout the body. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is released from cells that use oxygen to produce energy. This binding reaction requires a lot of energy, so after work is done within the cell, the blood carries it back to the lungs where more oxygen can be taken in and more carbon dioxide can be released. This cycle continues every time you breathe in and out.
The respiratory system maintains homeostasis in two ways: gas exchange and blood pH adjustment. The lungs accomplish gas exchange by removing carbon dioxide, a waste product of cellular respiration. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood through the body to provide the necessary fuel for cells to function properly. The liver produces bicarbonate ions that neutralize acid compounds released by other organs such as muscles during activity. An increase in these ions from the liver into the bloodstream is called alkalosis. A low level of bicarbonate ions indicates acidemia. Changes in blood pH affect the performance of many enzymes and hormones.
Breathing also removes excess fluid from the body. We lose water through our skin, through urine, and through our feces. The kidneys regulate how much water we retain by making certain hormones that cause us to sweat at night or stay thirsty during the day. If the kidneys are unable to keep up with this loss, then fluid builds up in the body, leading to dehydration. Dehydration makes it harder for your body to fight off infection and increases your risk of heatstroke or even death. Drinking enough water is important to maintaining health and survival ability during exercise or when exposed to hot temperatures.
Finally, breathing removes noxious gases such as carbon monoxide that could otherwise harm cells.
Gas Exchange and Homeostasis The respiratory system maintains homeostasis in two ways: gas exchange and blood pH adjustment. The skin and mucous membranes of the body are responsible for expelling oxygen. The heart pumps blood through the vascular system to provide all organs with oxygen required for cell metabolism and to remove carbon dioxide from cells. The immune system plays a role in maintaining homeostasis by protecting the body against foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.
The respiratory system is also important in adjusting the acidity or alkalinity of the blood. The blood is slightly acidic due to its content of hydrogen ions. The body needs a neutral environment within cells for proper function. Therefore, the blood must be made more alkaline to counteract the natural acidity caused by low blood pH. The lung fluid is very alkaline (pH 10-11), which helps buffer the blood while it passes through the lungs. As you breathe out, your breath contains carbon dioxide, which makes the lung fluid more acidic. This acidity must be counteracted by an equal amount of base (from urine, feces, sweat, etc.) to keep the blood and other tissues at a constant pH. The kidney is responsible for regulating blood pH by retaining alkaline minerals such as calcium and phosphate.
To eliminate carbon dioxide (CO2) from the body, the excretory system collaborates with the respiratory and circulatory systems. These three processes work together to maintain oxygen homeostasis by removing CO2. The excretory system is also responsible for fluid equilibrium. It washes waste products including urea from the body through urine and sweat; additionally, it removes toxic substances through feces.
The respiratory system performs two important functions in relation to the excretory system. First, it provides oxygen for cells of the body that use it up as they break down chemicals or remove excess hydrogen ions from the blood. Second, it removes carbon dioxide from the body for disposal or conversion into other compounds. Because excessive amounts of CO2 can be harmful, the respiratory system keeps total body concentrations low by absorbing more from the atmosphere than it releases via breathing out. The difference between how much air enters versus leaves the lungs is called the alveolar-arterial gradient. This gradient is used by physicians to determine if a patient is experiencing cardiac failure or not. If the gradient is high, this means there's a lot of CO2 in the blood and therefore heart failure must be present.
Finally, the circulatory system carries oxygen-rich blood and CO2-rich blood to different parts of the body to supply them with necessary nutrients and remove waste products.