Body processes

Abdominal Breathing – Function, Task & Diseases


In abdominal breathing , also known as belly breathing , breathing is largely determined by a contraction of the diaphragm . Abdominal breathing ventilates a larger portion of the lungs than thoracic breathing .

What is abdominal breathing?

The diaphragm, the most important inhalation muscle, is used in abdominal breathing. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped sheet of muscles and tendons that separates the abdominal cavity from the thoracic cavity. On the thoracic side, the diaphragm borders the lungs and the mediansium.

During abdominal breathing, the diaphragm contracts as you inhale. This means that the musculo-tendon plate contracts and moves down toward the abdominal organs. The shape of the diaphragm changes from a dome to a cone. The abdomen bulges outwards and the chest expands by slightly lifting the lower edges of the ribs.

The enlargement of the chest creates a negative pressure in the so-called pleural cavity. The pleural cavity is a body cavity that lies between the two layers of the pleura . The pleura is also known as the pleura. Between the two layers of the pleura is the pleural fluid. It forms a fine film of liquid on the leaves. This film makes the two sheets adhere to each other. This can be compared to two panes of glass: if they are moistened with a little water, these panes of glass can be pushed onto one another, but not separated from one another.

One sheet of the pleura lies against the chest, the other lies on the lungs. As the chest expands, the outer layer of the pleura is also pulled along. Due to attachment, the inner pleural sheet follows and the lungs thus expand as does the rib cage. The air pressure outside the lungs is greater than the air pressure inside the lungs due to the resulting negative pressure. As a result, air enters the lungs through the trachea .

The breathing process is supported by the intercostal muscles. When exhaling, the diaphragm muscles relax again. The lungs contract and the diaphragm returns to its original dome shape. The air flows out.

Unlike inhalation, exhalation is a passive process. This means that in healthy people no muscles are actively involved in exhalation.

Function & task

Humans breathe in and out about ten to fifteen times a minute. When you exert yourself, your breathing rate increases. This is how ten thousand liters of air pass through the respiratory tract every day . In the lungs, the red blood cells take in the oxygen you breathe in and give off carbon dioxide.Oxygen is needed for the generation of energy in the body cells . Without oxygen, body cells die within a very short time. Sufficient air must reach the lungs for optimal oxygen supply. This only works if the entire lung is involved in the breathing process.

The tidal volume of abdominal breathing is higher than that of thoracic breathing. The tidal volume is the volume that is inhaled and exhaled with each breath. The product of the tidal volume and the number of breaths per minute is called the tidal volume . The maximum breathing time volume can only be achieved with abdominal breathing.

When breathing through the chest, air is exchanged only in the upper parts of the lungs. The respiratory volume can therefore not be exhausted. The result is a lack of oxygen. This manifests itself, for example, in poor concentration and tiredness .

The lowering of the diaphragm during inhalation pushes the digestive organs down. The bulging of the abdomen ensures that there is no increased pressure in the abdomen. Nevertheless, the abdominal organs have to move closer together, the diaphragm presses on the organs from above . The abdominal breathing has a kind of massage effect on the abdominal organs. This promotes digestion . In addition, abdominal breathing also promotes the return flow of venous blood from the systemic circulation into the heart , because the pressure drop in the chest causes a suction effect in the inferior vena cava.

Abdominal breathing has a generally relaxing effect on the body. Blood pressure is lowered. Conscious abdominal breathing is therefore also recommended for patients with panic disorders . With abdominal breathing, the amount of air can also be regulated much better. Singers, wind musicians and martial artists take advantage of this fact as a breathing support.

Diseases & Ailments

Abdominal breathing is not always possible, especially in the case of diseases and impairments of the diaphragm. If the diaphragm bulges in the direction of the chest, this is referred to as an elevated position of the diaphragm . This can be caused by diseases of the abdominal organs, such as swelling of the liver or spleen , or by lung malformations. Pregnancy , large tumors in the abdomen and even severe flatulence can also push the diaphragm upwards. As a result, the diaphragm can no longer lower and expansion of the chest and lungs is only possible to a limited extent. The result is a so-called restrictive ventilation disorderthe lungs, causing breathing problems.Adhesions in the pleura or pulmonary fibrosis can also make abdominal breathing difficult. The same applies to restricted mobility of the chest. In the case of scoliosis and a funnel chest, abdominal breathing is not possible or only possible with great difficulty.

Abdominal breathing is also impaired with paralysis of the diaphragm. Paralysis of the diaphragm is usually caused by paralysis of the phrenic nerve. The diaphragm relaxes. As a result, the abdominal organs are no longer pressed in the direction of the abdomen, but press in the direction of the chest and impede breathing there. Diaphragm paralysis can be caused by surgery, pneumonia , or liver disease .

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.