It’s a Journey – The Lungs

Last week we put the car in gear and began a life journey review. In the beginning the journey started with the blood stream, a highway of about 60,000 miles of blood vessels with the heart pumping blood through the vessels.

Our lives spread out before us on the map to an ultimate destination. There is a difference between a destination and stops along the way. Our journey on that 60,000 miles can take us to potential stops we don’t intend or want. Once we stop at even one we can eventually stop at all the others.

Remember that the blood carries the nutrients introduced by food and the oxygen breathed into the lungs. Damage to the blood vessels and the lungs reflect stops on the journey, setting us up for unfortunate future stops.

The Respiratory System

The path to the lungs starts at the nose, moves in lock step through the throat, dividing at the back of the throat to separate the food (the blood stream) and air path. The air moves on into the windpipe and then smaller and smaller branches of the bronchi, finally ending at about 300 million tiny air sacs called alveola.

Tiny blood vessels between the air sacs absorb oxygen from the air sacs and deliver it into the blood stream. At the same time the blood discharges gaseous waste like carbon dioxide into the air sacs, sending it back for exhalation. Breath in, breath out.

As you read here recall that your immune system is principally focused in the places where bad stuff can get into your body. That would be your intestines (where about 70% of the immune system resides) and your lungs.

The entire respiratory system, nose to the smallest bronchi (alveola), is lined with mucous membrane and tiny hair like structures called cilia, both of which are intended to capture dust, bacteria, viruses, and other particles to keep them out of the lungs and protect us from infections.

Following are critical factors negatively affecting lung function.

  • Chemical toxins including tobacco tar and other environmental toxins like herbicides/pesticies damage the cilia described above, accumulating on and narrowing the tiny bronchi, thus allowing the toxins into the blood stream. Not a good thing.
  • Persistent high blood sugar and resulting high insulin levels impair the lungs and cause structural “remodeling” Remodeling narrows the bronchia and causes progressive decline of lung function. In other words causing COPD, asthma, and obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Babies delivered from both diabetic pregnant women and women with gestational diabetes can be exposed to high blood sugar and insulin through out the pregnancy. These children are particular candidates for poor lung development and asthma. High blood glucose levels were shown to affect fetal and postnatal (after birth) lung development by generalized slowing of alveolar growth.
  • High insulin levels delay lung development in fetuses of diabetic mothers leading to increased incidence of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in infants. Hyperinsulinemia (hyper means too much) may lead to development of lung disease, particularly asthma and COPD.

At the simplest level, the organ required to provide oxygen to the body is the lungs. Anything to diminishes the lungs’ ability to deliver oxygen interferes significantly with health and and can ultimately contribute to organ failure everywhere. As you have seen already the major players in that contribution are high glucose and insulin.

The tricky thing here is that blood sugar is easy to measure and insulin is more troublesome. What is sometimes seen as the easy way to affect blood sugar is to add insulin. But as you have seen in this article too much insulin is equally problematic.

With this background, we will finish the basics by going straight for the sources of high glucose and insulin – the digestive system.


Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is She can be contacted at, 501-605-3902. Her Facebook page is