Nitric oxide is a ubiquitous molecule involved in a variety of biological processes. The specific action of NO depends on its enzymatic sources namely neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), endothelial NOS (eNOS) and inducible NOS (iNOS) and all three isoforms have been localized in the gastrointestinal tract. Constitutive synthesis of NO by nNOS or eNOS isoforms is involved in the maintaining of the gastrointestinal mucosal integrity through modulation of gastric mucosal blood flow, epithelial secretion and barrier function. However, large amounts of NO synthesized from the inducible isoform have been implicated in tissue injury in the gut during inflammatory reactions. In this review we provide an overview of the dual role of nitric oxide in modulating gastrointestinal mucosal defense and injury. In addition, we highlight the therapeutic potential of NO modulation.