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What Causes Intestines to Twist & Can a Twisted Intestine Get Untwist By Itself?

The human intestine extends from the pyloric sphincter of the stomach to the anus; and it consists of the small intestine and large intestine. The small intestine is subdivided into the ileum, duodenum and jejunum. The large intestine is subdivided into the colon, rectum and cecum. Any change in the shape of the intestine is known as twisted intestine or twisted bowel. These abnormal twists in the intestine can lead to serious complications and can even lead to death. It is therefore important to treat this condition as an emergency situation and seek medical attention at the earliest. Based on the location of the twists, they are of 2 types:

  • Volvulus: When the twists are located in the small intestine.
  • Colonic Volvulus: When the twists are located in the large intestine.

What Causes Intestines to Twist?

What Causes Intestines to Twist?

Twisted intestine can be caused due to multiple reasons. Infants born with twisted intestine have higher chances of developing twisted intestine in the future. In some cases, twisted intestine may arise after an abdominal surgery. Based on the nature of the causes, they are divided into primary and secondary causes:

Primary Causes of Intestines to Twist: These causes are associated with poor diet and gut mobility. It may be noted in children as well as in adults. Colonic volvulus is often related to pregnancy.

Secondary Causes of Intestines to Twist: These causes arise due to certain underlying medical conditions such as redundant intestinal tissues or adhesions in the colon (often in the absence of anatomical abnormalities). These are commonly seen in adults above the age of 40 years.

The other possible causes of twisted intestine include:

Gut Motility: This may be caused due to excessive use of laxative or following a high fibrous diet. This makes it hard for the body to expel the digested food leading to twisted intestine.

Over Eating: Excessive eating can exert abnormal pressure over the intestine to digest the food. This makes it difficult for the food to move through the intestine leading to twisted intestine.

Intestinal Mal-rotation Causing Twisted Intestine: This is genetic fault where the bowel is abnormally shaped. It is often noticed within few days after birth.

Abdominal Adhesions: This is often associated with a history of abdominal infection or surgery, possibly due to development of scar tissues. This leads to twisting or looping of the intestine.

Diverticulosis Causing Twisted Intestine: This condition is associated with protrusions or sacs within the lining of the intestine causing looping and obstruction. This may be congenital or it may develop later in life.

The exact cause of twisted intestine is hard to understand. It is characterised by the intestines folding upon it. Other causes are associated with cancers, old age, dietary changes pregnancy, post-surgical recovery etc. The medical conditions giving rise to twisted intestine include:

  • Diaphragmatic hernia
  • Stenosis or atresia
  • Mega colon
  • Hirsch sprung disease
  • Meckel diverticulum
  • Intussusceptions
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Meconium ileus
  • Intestinal pseudo-obstruction.

Can a Twisted Intestine Get Untwist By Itself?

It has been noted that in large number of cases, the intestine untwists by itself; however, if the untwisting does not occur by itself, the patient may be need surgical intervention. Patients with mild to moderate intensity of twisted intestine are given the following option to promote untwisting of the intestine without surgery:

Diet Modification to Untwist Intestine: Diet modification often solves the twisted intestine issue. It is important to follow a healthy diet that is rich in fibre. It is also important to increase the intake of fluids and water. Measures should be taken to avoid constipation.

Exercise: Regular exercise can solve the condition, as it increases the blood flow to the area and promotes digestion. Regular exercise can help in reducing the pain and other symptoms.

Colon Cleansing: It is a simple procedure carried for removing toxins like faeces from the intestine. It is usually done once a year. It is also known as colon therapy, colonic irrigation and colon hydrotherapy.


  1. Stanford Children’s Health. (n.d.). Volvulus. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=volvulus-90-P02025

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 31, 2023

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