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What Causes Intestinal Twisting When Doing Sit-Ups?

author image Sumei FitzGerald
Sumei FitzGerald has been writing professionally since 2008 on health, nutrition, medicine and science topics. She has published work on doctors' websites such as Colon Cancer Resource, psychology sites such as Webpsykologen and environmental websites such as Supergreenme. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Connecticut where she also studied life sciences.
What Causes Intestinal Twisting When Doing Sit-Ups?
A man doing sit ups. Photo Credit Yuri Arcurs/Hemera/Getty Images

It is not uncommon to feel your intestines shift when you are doing situps. One of the roles your abdominal muscles play is keeping your internal organs in place. The stronger your abdominal muscles become due to situps, the less organ-shifting you will encounter. The movements you feel are probably not true intestinal twisting; that rare phenomenon, called volvulus, has life-threatening consequences.

True Intestinal Twisting

When any portion of your intestines twists, blood supply to the area is cut off and you are unable to pass gas or stool. Abdominal cramping and vomiting results, and your abdomen becomes distended due to trapped blood, feces, food and fluid. Over time, you will develop a fever and gangrene can set in. Volvulus is very rare: only about three cases occur in every 100,000 people every year, according to the Cure Research website.

Volvulus Causes

There can be a variety of reasons for intestinal twisting. Some people have a very long or enlarged colon. The colon may be only loosely held in place by anchoring tissue. Chronic constipation can stretch the colon over time, according to the Abdopain website. Other causes include abdominal or gastric surgery, birth abnormalities and malrotations, celiac sprue, colitis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, floating liver syndrome, Hirschsprung disease, tumors, or excessive fiber in the diet.

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Volvulus Treatment

Treatment for intestinal twisting depends upon its severity. If the problem is infrequent, a barium enema may be enough to force the colon to untwist. If intestinal twisting occurs often, surgery may be performed during an unaffected time. The colon can be stitched to stay in place, or extra colon length may be removed, reports The Hutchinson Clinic website. In emergency cases, a temporary colostomy may be performed to rescue the colon from gangrene.

Prevention of Intestinal Twisting

If you feel that your intestines are truly twisting and not just shifting, it is important to see a doctor. Your problem may be due to an elongated or enlarged colon. Your diet may contain too much fiber; excessive laxative use, if you’re often constipated, can also contribute to intestinal twisting. Low potassium levels can contribute to volvulus, reports the Abdopain website. In most cases, the intestinal shifting you feel will lessen as you strengthen your abdominal muscles with situps or other exercises.

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