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Why are your lungs more like sponges than balloons?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
You probably have a good image of the way your lungs look on the outside. While you may think they function a little like balloons in that they expand when air is consumed, it's probably better to think of your two lungs as large sponges. They're light and fluffy when filled with air, but they get bogged down when they get wet (as they do in some diseases) and don't exchange air very well in those cases.


Picture of lungs and diaphragm
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

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YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

Between your full-length mirror and high-school biology class, you probably think you know a lot about the human body. While it's true that we live in an age when we're as obsessed with our bodies as...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.