This week’s weather forecast for Casper calls for mainly sunny skies. It’s nearly mid-February and winter still has a few months’ grip on our state and community. With several inches of snow still on the ground and many feet of snow on Casper Mountain, it can seem like winter will never end. Therefore, we’d be wise to spend time outdoors during the nicer, sunnier, warmer days we’ll experience this week.

What’s so Important About Vitamin D?

Sunlight gives us a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Why is that important? According to the Mayo Clinic, Vitamin D helps “maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.” This nutrient also helps our bodies absorb calcium, which is important for strong bones, and that helps decrease fractures. Vitamin D has other benefits as well, such as helping to protect against osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.

A person can get adequate levels of Vitamin D from sunlight. According to WebMD, “six days of casual sunlight exposure without sunscreen can make up for 49 days of no sunlight exposure.” Body fat acts like a storage unit for Vitamin D — it’s stored in fatty fat during sunny times and then released when sunlight is absent. Vitamin D deficiency is very common, but doesn’t have to be.

In addition to sunlight exposure, a person can get this important vitamin from several food sources, including some fish, fish liver oil, egg yolks, fortified dairy items, and grain products.

Low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with various health issues, including cardiovascular disease, asthma in children, impaired cognition in older adults, and cancer.

Vitamin D and Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, you should make sure you get plenty of Vitamin D. Not only is this nutrient important for your health, it’s also important for the health of your unborn. Vitamin D helps not only helps your bone development , but also that of your baby. Some studies show lack of Vitamin D is related to preeclampsia, a condition that occurs only during pregnancy, and often includes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. In severe cases, women develop headaches and blurred vision.

Many experts recommend that pregnant women get 200 IUs (5 micrograms) of vitamin D daily if they’re not exposed to adequate sunlight; some recommend a dosage as high as 4,000 IUs. Consult with your doctor on how much Vitamin D is needed and the best ways to obtain this important nutrient.

Supplements or Not?

Whether pregnant or not, all women should have sufficient Vitamin D intake. If you don’t get enough naturally, through sunlight and food, you can also look into taking supplements. Consult your medical provider first, however, and do your research.

Better yet, spend some time outdoors in the sun this week. Take walks along the river, go sledding with your kids, or skiing/snowshoeing on Casper Mountain. Soak up the rays as these winter days turn ever closer to spring and receive a good dosage of that all-important Vitamin D!